Vessels that provide blood to the testicle exit the abdomen through a hole in the abdominal wall (inguinal ring). In women, this ring is also present, despite the absence of testicular vessels. In normal cases, the inguinal ring is small enough to prevent the passage of abdominal contents (such as the small or large intestines) outside of the abdominal cavity.
A hernia exists when the inguinal ring enlarges to the point where a bowel can pass through it. Hernias most often cause pain in the groin. Often, a lump is felt in the groin area. This lump represents a bowel passing through the inguinal ring. In most cases, the bowel is able to re-enter the abdomen on its own. Less frequently, the bowel becomes trapped outside of the abdomen, leading to an incarcerated hernia. All inguinal hernias must be repaired. If not, a bowel passing through the inguinal ring becomes trapped and deprived of blood flow, leading to a strangulated hernia.
While you are awake and pain-free (using local anesthesia or spinal anesthesia) or asleep and pain-free (using general anesthesia), an incision is made over the hernia. The bulging tissue or organ is replaced inside of the muscle wall; the muscle tissue is repaired; and the skin is closed. Frequently, a small piece of synthetic mesh is used to close the defect in the inguinal ring. Less commonly, laparoscopic surgical techniques are used to repair ingunial hernias.
Moving and walking are recommended the day of surgery. Small children do not require any restriction following a routine hernia repair. However, older children should avoid body-contact sports for at least three weeks because a blow to the incision could burst the skin closure. Expect complete recovery from surgery in about two to four weeks. Avoid heavy lifting or straining for several weeks after surgery. Avoid bathing for at least five days after the operation since soaking separates the skin tapes, and the wound could break open. Sponge bathing for infants and showering for older children are permitted the day after surgery. Remember to carefully pat dry the wound tapes after showering.