Our focus this week is on hernias and specifically times when surgery is necessary.  We spoke with Dr. Lane Ritter, a general surgeon at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital, to find out more.

Hernias aren’t uncommon, but there are different types, various symptoms, and several options for treatment. 

“A hernia , in general, means there’s a weak area of a muscle or hole in a muscle that means something can bulge through that’s not supposed to,” said Ritter.

Groin hernias are some of the more common seen by Dr. Ritter.  They often affect men more than women, but unfortunately preventing them is difficult. “There is nothing you can do really to prevent a hernia,” he said. 

Symptoms can present in several ways.  “Sometimes it’s a more gradual onset,” he noted.  “In other cases, it’s a sudden acute thing where someone realizes there was a definite instance of heavy lifting, for example, that led to the pain.” 

If surgery is needed to repair a groin hernia, Dr. Ritter says patients have two options. An “open” repair can be done where an incision is made and a mesh patch is then put between the layers of affected muscles.  A minimally invasive procedure is also possible, where there is no major incision and a camera is used to help guide the surgeon in placing the patch. 

“We try to tailor our approach to each patient’s needs and presentation,” he noted.  “We like to talk through the pros and cons of both methods with patients in the office and come to a decision together.” 

Both procedures are outpatient, so you go home the same day. 

If you would like more information on this topic or Dr. Ritter, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, email healthquestions@nbc29.com.