What Is A Ventral Hernia?
A ventral hernia is a hole that is created in the fascia layer of the abdominal wall. The wall of the abdomen consists of many layers which include:
- Adipose tissue (natural body fat);
- Muscles (internal organs are protected and held in place by your abdominal muscles, they support the spine and maintain posture and core support);
- Fascia (Connective tissue layer beneath the skin that protected, supports, and surrounds muscles and internal organs).
A ventral hernia is a tear in the fascia layer that allows abdominal tissue such as the loop of an intestine to protrude through the weakness in the abdominal wall. The resulting ventral hernia manifests as a bulge that is outwardly visible on the abdomen.
Types Of Ventral Hernias
Ventral hernia types are classified by where on the abdomen they are located and include:
1. Epigastric Ventral Hernia
Occurs in the abdominal wall between the breastbone and navel (this area is called the epigastrium) Epigastric hernias form due to fascia defects and are located somewhere along the centerline (linea alba) of the abdomen that separates the right side of the abdomen from the left side.
When an epigastric ventral hernia forms right above the belly button, it is called a supraumbilical ventral hernia and is different from an umbilical ventral hernia.
Individuals can be born with fascia defects that develop into ventral hernias in this area but they are more commonly experienced by older adults.
2. Umbilical Ventral Hernia
An umbilical ventral hernia forms directly within the navel and is a common occurrence in infants and children. Most umbilical ventral hernias close up on their own by the time a child is 4 or 5 years old however if it does not close then surgery will be required to repair the area.
Although less common, adult men also experience umbilical ventral hernias and require surgical repair. Umbilical hernias can cause pain around the belly button, chronic pressure, nausea, and vomiting.
3. Periumbilical Ventral Hernia
Unlike a true umbilical ventral hernia, a periumbilical ventral hernia is an indirect umbilical hernia and protrudes above or below the umbilicus and not directly through it like an umbilical ventral hernia.
Periumbilical ventral hernias are common in adults and often seen in elderly men and obese individuals. The symptoms of a periumbilical hernia can be dull or severe sharp pains around the belly button and possibly the enlargement of the hernia’s size.
4. Lateral Ventral Hernia
Lateral ventral hernias (or Spigelian hernias) are rare and are seen less than 1% of the time. Women are a bit more predisposed to experience a lateral ventral hernia and they can be present from birth or develop later in life. Spigelian or lateral ventral hernias develop more to the left or right side of the abdominal wall and not down the center.
5. Incisional Ventral Hernia
A hernia that develops in the same location as the scar from previous surgery is called a ventral incisional hernia. When an incision is made in the abdomen, it compromises the strength and integrity of the muscles. The weakened abdominal muscles are more susceptible to pressure and strain and may allow abdominal tissue or organs to push out through these weakened spots.
What Causes Ventral Hernias?
Ventral hernias can be present since birth (congenital) or can be acquired through chronic pressure or strain being applied to the abdominal muscles. Factors that can create weakened areas in the abdominal muscles and allow ventral hernias to form include:
- Coughing spells;
- Chronic constipation/straining from a bowel movement;
- Serious and continued vomiting;
- Diseases such as diabetes, etc.;
- Lifting heavy objects;
- Traumatic injury;
- Prior abdominal surgery.
Are Ventral Hernias Dangerous?
Some types of ventral hernias do not cause any symptoms and doctors may take a “wait and watch” approach. This would depend on the location and if there were risks of developing an incarcerated ventral hernia.
Also known as a strangulated ventral hernia, an incarcerated hernia can occur if the tissue or intestine that is protruding becomes stuck and its blood supply is cut off. The tissue will begin to die and immediate medical attention is necessary.
Can a Hernia Be Life-Threatening? Ask Dr. Chris
Can a hernia be life-threatening? Top general surgeon and CEO of the world-renown surgical practice, IBI Healthcare Institute, Dr. Chris Ibikunle, MD FACS answers some of the most common questions patients have about a hernia injury, and the surgical procedures available.
How Are Ventral Hernias Diagnosed?
Ventral hernias are most often diagnosed by a noticeable protrusion from the abdomen. CT scans, ultrasound, and other forms of testing may confirm the diagnosis of ventral hernias.
Is Surgery Necessary To Repair Ventral Hernias?
Ventral hernias normally do not resolve on their own and eventually require surgical repair. Some hernias, depending on their location, will cause discomfort, pain, vomiting, constipation, etc. Patients will seek out treatment to restore their quality of life or their doctor may determine that surgery is necessary, sooner rather than later, to avoid the risk of experiencing a strangulated hernia.
If you are concerned that you may have a ventral hernia and would like to learn more about your treatment options, contact IBI Healthcare Institute today. Our team of experts is here to answer your questions and help develop a plan of care that will get your health back on track. Call us today or set up an appointment online.