A hernia is a weak point in the barrier between our organs and our skin. Usually in the abdominal wall or groin, a hernia allows an organ to stick out. A person with a hernia can usually feel it as a bulge, especially when they cough, stand up or strain.
Like a cavity in your teeth, a hernia is easy to ignore when it’s small. But, just as a cavity can eventually wreck the inside of a tooth, a hernia can grow larger until it’s a major problem.
“Hernias don’t heal by themselves, and surgery to repair them is common,” explains board-certified general surgeon Michele Malit, DO. “But advances in technology and techniques allow us to repair your hernia in an effective, minimally invasive way.”
Minimally Invasive Hernia Surgery
At one time, hernias were repaired using an “open” surgical method. This means the surgeon makes an incision large enough to be able to see all of the organs involved.
“When it comes to hernias, using an open method is like opening up an entire roof to fix a little leak,” says Dr. Malit. “Using a smaller, more focused hole is the better approach, and that’s the idea behind minimally invasive surgery.”
In a minimally invasive procedure, a surgeon makes small cuts and performs surgery with narrow tools equipped with a tiny camera. But these tools usually can’t turn the way a human wrist can. That’s where the robot comes in.
How Robotic Surgery Works
For many people, the idea of robotic surgery conjures up an image of a machine performing surgery by itself — but rest assured, that’s not how it works.
“The surgeon sits down at the console and controls the robot using handles and foot pedals while looking into a high-definition screen,” explains Dr. Malit. “It’s basically an extension of the surgeon that allows them more power, control and vision.”
The robotic surgical platform enhances the surgeon’s precision and visibility while performing the procedure. The robot is controlled by the surgeon and its movements are steady and precise. The fine-tuned optics allow surgeons to see more clearly what to avoid and where to operate.
When it comes to hernia repair, there are proven robotic techniques that are particularly helpful for patients with multiple hernias or complicated ones.
Benefits of Robotic Surgery
“The benefits to a patient of robotic surgery over open surgery include less pain, less damage to surrounding tissue, faster recovery and smaller scars,” explains Dr. Malit. “Patients have been returning to work more quickly. No longer is a week of recovery needed after an operation.”
It’s important to note that not everyone is a candidate for minimally invasive surgery. Certain types of hernias may require traditional open surgery to repair. Your doctor will discuss your options with you based on your condition and unique health history.
Don’t Wait to Get Your Hernia Fixed
“Though it’s easy to ignore a small hernia, it will only become more painful as it grows,” warns Dr. Malit. And untreated hernias can lead to dangerous complications.
The part of an organ that’s poking through the hernia can get trapped outside the abdominal wall, or “incarcerated.” Worse, it can get cut off from its blood supply, or “strangulated,” and require emergency surgery to fix.