Why Is My Stomach Bigger After Hernia Surgery?

If you are wondering why your stomach seems bigger after umbilical hernia surgery, you should know that this is normal and expected. It is generally nothing to worry about and can be minimized by carefully following the aftercare instructions provided by the surgeon.

In rare cases, swelling may be a sign that the hernia repair was unsuccessful or it may be an indicator of infection. This article should provide you with an overview of why you may experience stomach bloating after hernia surgery.

Why Am I So Bloated After Hernia Surgery?

The body is remarkable in that it has its own built-in repair process. When we experience an injury or some type of trauma, our body’s natural response is to send thousands of cells to the injured area to begin the healing process. This invasion of white blood cells is called “the inflammatory phase” because of the swelling that ensues.

Another reason patients experience swelling after hernia surgery is a side effect of the surgical procedure. During hernia repair surgery, incisions are made through multiple layers of muscle and skin. The surgeon then manipulates the escaped abdominal contents back where it belongs before applying the reinforcing mesh. This often introduces air into the abdominal cavity and causes the stomach to look bigger after hernia surgery.

Carbon dioxide is used to inflate the abdominal cavity during a hernia repair to give the surgeon more access to perform the procedure. Most of this gas is removed before the surgeon closes the incisions but some always remain trapped inside the abdomen. This gas is released naturally over the next 48 hours but in the meantime, it will cause stomach bloating and shoulder pain as it travels upward.

The trauma of the hernia repair will create bruising which also triggers inflammation and swelling. Patients who undergo hernia repair surgery can expect a significant amount of swelling and bruising after their procedure.

How Long Does Swelling Last After Hernia Repair Surgery?

Many factors can affect the time it takes for the swelling to subside after a hernia repair such as the type, size, and extent of the hernia repair, the patient’s daily habits, poor diet, etc.

Most patients experience some pain from the trapped gas but it should dissipate after about 48 hours as the gas is released from the body. A significant amount of stomach bloating occurring after the hernia repair should subside in a few days, but residual swelling can last several weeks.

Many patients experience a dull ache in their abdomen for a few days similar to after an abdominal workout or may have a sensation of pressure or fullness.

Patients can experience swelling in areas other than the hernia site such as the genitals or groin. Swelling that occurs in these areas is normal after a large inguinal hernia repair and can take a year or more to dissipate.

Video: Real Surgery – Umbilical Hernia Repair

Real Surgery - Umbilical Hernia Repair - IBI Healthcare Institute

Dr. Chris is performing an umbilical hernia repair at IBI Healthcare Institute (9/16/19).

Complications And Abnormal Swelling After Hernia Surgery

Patients should follow their aftercare instructions closely and monitor their repair site for abnormal symptoms or any of the following issues:

  • Firm lumps;
  • Decreased sensitivity or numbness;
  • Nausea, vomiting;
  • Burning sensation or pain;
  • Lethargy or chronic fatigue;
  • Sexual dysfunction.

The listed symptoms are not always a cause for concern but a quick exam can ensure they are not related to a serious issue. Swelling or bulges in the stomach that become bigger or more pronounced should be examined by your doctor.

Minimizing Hernia Swelling After Surgery

While some swelling is expected and unavoidable, there are some things a patient can do to minimize the discomfort of a bloated stomach after hernia surgery.

1. A Healthy Diet Avoiding Gas Inducing Foods
Your diet after hernia surgery can hinder your recovery if you eat the wrong foods. Sodas and carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, greasy food, spicy foods, and dairy products are culprits of constipation and gas which are two things you want to prevent. Eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Berries, cucumbers, avocados, and bananas are good sources of vitamins and nutrients and they help prevent excess bloating and gas.
2. Regular Bowel Movements
Constipation can cause straining which you want to avoid after hernia repair surgery. Constipation is a common side effect of surgery and the use of local anesthesia. Also, some pain medications used after surgery to ease discomfort also can slow down the bowels. The doctor will instruct you to take stool softeners for a while after a hernia repair to help restore the function of the bowels and promote regular bowel movements. Stool softeners along with a healthy diet should help to release trapped gas and reduce stomach distention.
3. Remain Active
The first few days after hernia surgery the doctor will want you to take it easy, walk slowly and not make any sudden or abrupt movements. After a few days, some light to moderate activity will help prevent complications and promote healing. Patients should not perform any activities that would cause strain or stress to their repair site.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Getting at least 8 hours of sleep and resting during the day will help give your body what it needs to repair itself.
5. Follow Aftercare Instructions Diligently
Patients receive customized aftercare instructions when they are discharged to return home to recover. To minimize the risk of a repair failure or recurrence of the hernia it is critical that patients closely adhere to these instructions.
6. Attend All Follow-Up Appointments
Don’t miss any post-operative appointments. Even though you are feeling great, the surgeon needs to ensure that you are healing properly and there are no potential concerns that could inhibit your recovery.
7. Wear Your Abdominal Support Binder
Most surgeons will recommend some type of binder garment to be worn after surgery to promote healing and minimize swelling and bloating. Wearing this binder can help prevent a recurrence due to strain before the repair site is fully healed.

To learn more about hernia repair surgery, contact IBI Healthcare Institute. The knowledgeable professionals at our Advanced Hernia Center are available to answer your questions and address your concerns. Set up an appointment today to find out how hernia repair surgery can help you.