Inguinal hernia - discharge
Herniorrhaphy - discharge; Hernioplasty - discharge
You or your child had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia caused by a weakness in the abdominal wall in your groin area.
Now that you or your child is going home, follow the surgeon's instructions on self-care at home.
When You're in the Hospital
During surgery, you or your child had anesthesia. This may have been general (asleep and pain-free) or spinal or epidural (numb from the waist down) anesthesia. If the hernia was small, it may have been repaired under local anesthesia (awake but pain-free).
The nurse will give you or your child pain medicine and help you or your child begin to move around. Rest and gentle movement are important for recovery.
You or your child may go home the same day as surgery. Or the hospital stay may be 1 to 2 days. It will depend on the procedure that was done.
What to Expect at Home
After hernia repair:
- If there are stitches on the skin, they will need to be removed at a follow-up visit with the surgeon. If stitches under the skin were used, they will dissolve on their own.
- The incision may be covered with a bandage. Or, it is covered with a liquid adhesive (skin glue).
- You or your child may have pain, soreness, and stiffness at first, especially when moving about. This is normal.
- You or your child will also feel tired after surgery. This can last for a few weeks.
- You or your child will most likely return to normal activities in just a few weeks.
- Men may have swelling and pain in their testicles.
- There may be some bruising around the groin and testicular area.
- You or your child may have trouble passing urine for the first few days.
Make sure you or your child gets plenty of rest the first 2 to 3 days after going home. Ask family and friends for help with daily activities while your movements are limited.
Hernias are one of the most common reasons for children to need surgery. Thankfully, the risks today are very low, and the results are excellent. Let's talk about inguinal hernia repair. Before a baby is born, the testicles and ovaries begin life in the back of the belly. As the baby develops, the testicles or ovaries descend into their place in the body through a tube called the inguinal canal. If the canal doesn't close afterward some of the intestines can slip through and create a bulge, or hernia, in the baby's groin. Premature babies tend to develop hernias more than full-term babies. Boys are more likely to have hernias than girls. Hernias can also run in families, and they're often associated with other problems, like undescended testicles. How do you know if your child has an inguinal hernia? Parents usually notice a lump or bulge in their child's groin, scrotum, or labia during bath time or while changing a diaper. It may appear when the child cries or strains, and disappear when they are relaxed or asleep. Sometimes some of the intestine will get trapped in the hernia, causing pain. The child gets fussy and may cry inconsolably. If blood supply to the intestine is cut off, the bulge may be red and tender, and the child may have a fever and a racing heart rate. Inguinal hernias do not go away without treatment. The good news is a simple, safe operation can close the inguinal canal. Your child will usually receive general anesthesia, and be asleep and without pain. The surgeon will make a small cut near the hernia, push the intestine back into your child's belly, and close the inguinal canal. Your child should go home the same day. When you get your child home, don't be concerned if you notice swelling or some bruising in the area of the surgery. That's to be expected - it's normal. And you can kind of go with your child's desired level of activity for a bit. In fact, encouraging them to move some will help speed recovery, but you want to avoid really rough play or extreme activity for the first week or so until the incision begins to really repair.
So what do you need to know after your child has had an inguinal hernia repaired? I'm Dr. Alan Greene with some tips for once you go home after inguinal hernia repair. Usually that surgery is done on a come and go basis. Your child goes home that same day and don't be concerned if you notice swelling or some bruising in the area of the surgery, that's to be expected - it's normal. And you can kind of go with your child's desired level of activity for a bit. In fact, encouraging them to move some will help speed recovery but you want to avoid really rough play or extreme activity for the first week or so until the incision begins to really repair. When should you call a doctor after the surgery? If that swelling or bruising is increasing after a couple of days, that's a good time to check in with your doctor. Same thing if bleeding is increasing or pain is increasing or redness is increasing or there's discharge from the incision after a few days. I would check in. Also with a fever over 101 or so is a good time to check in. And if there is new nausea or vomiting a day or more after the surgery. But otherwise within a week your child should be back up playing actively and in better shape than ever before.
Use any pain medicines as instructed by the surgeon or nurse. You may be given a prescription for a narcotic pain medicine. Ask your surgeon about using ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) as an initial treatment for pain to reduce your need for narcotic pain medicine.
Apply a cold compress to the incision area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time for the first few days. This will help the pain and swelling. Wrap the compress or ice in a towel. This helps prevent cold injury to the skin.
There may be a bandage over the incision. Follow the surgeon's instructions for how long to leave it on and when to change it. If skin glue was used, a bandage may not have been used.
- A little bleeding and drainage is normal for the first few days. Apply antibiotic ointment (for example, bacitracin or polysporin) or another solution to the incision area if the surgeon or nurse told you to.
- Wash the area with mild soap and water when the surgeon says it is OK to do so. Gently pat it dry. Do not take a bath, soak in a hot tub, or go swimming for the first week after surgery.
Diet During Recovery
Pain medicines can cause constipation. Eating some high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of water can help keep the bowels moving. Use over the counter fiber products if constipation does not improve.
Antibiotics can cause diarrhea. If this happens, try eating yogurt with live cultures or taking psyllium (Metamucil). Call the surgeon if the diarrhea does not get better.
Activity for Adults
Give yourself time to heal. You may gradually resume normal activities, such as walking, driving, and sexual activity, when you are ready. But you probably will not feel like doing anything strenuous for a few weeks.
Do not drive if you are taking narcotic pain medicines.
Do not lift anything over 10 pounds or 4.5 kilograms (about a gallon or a 4 liter jug of milk) for 4 to 6 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is OK. If possible, avoid doing any activity that causes pain, or pulls on the area of surgery. Older boys and men may want to wear an athletic supporter if they have swelling or pain in the testicles.
Check with the surgeon before returning to sports or other high-impact activities. Protect the incision area from the sun for 1 year to prevent noticeable scarring.
Activity for Children
Toddlers and older children will often stop any activity if they get tired. Do not press them to do more if they seem tired.
The surgeon or nurse will tell you when it is OK for your child to return to school or daycare. This may be as soon as 2 to 3 weeks after surgery.
Ask the surgeon or nurse if there are certain activities or sports your child should not do, and for how long.
Schedule a follow-up appointment with the surgeon as directed. Usually, this visit is about 2 weeks after surgery.
When to Call the Doctor
Contact the surgeon if you or your child has any of the following:
- Severe pain or soreness
- Incisions are bleeding, red or warm to the touch, or have a thick, yellow, green, or pus-like drainage
- Difficulty breathing
- Lightheadedness that does not go away after a few days
- Chills, or fever of 101°F (38.3°C), or higher
- Warmth, or redness at the incision site
- Trouble urinating
- Swelling or pain in the testicles that is getting worse
Cameron J. Hernia. In: Cameron J, ed. Current Surgical Therapy. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:663-716.
Poulose BK, Carbonell AM, Rosen MJ. Hernias. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 45.
Last reviewed on: 3/11/2023
Reviewed by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.