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Unlocking Hernia Surgery: How Long Can You Expect It to Take?

If you're faced with the discomfort of a hernia, you're not alone. Hernias can be painful and disrupt your daily life, but the good news is that hernia surgery can offer relief. One of the most common questions patients have is, "How long does hernia surgery take?" The answer isn't straightforward, as several factors come into play. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the duration of different hernia surgeries, including laparoscopic or robotic basic hernia surgery, robotic complex hernia surgery, and open complex hernia surgery. 

Hernia surgery isn't just about alleviating physical discomfort; it's a step toward reclaiming your quality of life and regaining the ability to engage in activities you enjoy. By understanding the intricacies of the surgery and the factors influencing its duration, you're taking a proactive step towards informed decision-making and a smoother recovery journey.

Understanding Hernia Surgery

First, let's grasp the basics of hernia surgery. A hernia occurs when an organ or tissue pushes through a weak point in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue. Surgery is the primary treatment, involving the repositioning of the protruding organ or tissue and the repair of the weakened area. Surgical techniques vary, including open surgery and minimally invasive options like laparoscopic and robotic surgery. The choice depends on factors such as the hernia type, complexity, patient factors, patient preferences, and the surgeon's expertise.

Factors Affecting Surgery Duration

The duration of hernia surgery hinges on several factors, including:

  • Hernia Type: The type of hernia you have greatly impacts the surgical time. Common types include inguinal (groin), umbilical (belly button), incisional (any hernia that resulted from a prior abdominal surgery), and hiatal (upper stomach) hernias, each necessitating a different approach.  Surgeons usually categorize non-groin hernias (ie ventral or incisional hernias) by the width of the hernia.  The surgery time usually correlates with the width of the defect.
    • Small: <4cm
    • Medium: 4-8cm
    • Large:  >8cm
  • Surgical Approach: Hernia surgery can be conducted via different methods. The two primary ones are open surgery and minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic or robotic).
  • Patient Factors:  Patients who are obese, have had multiple abdominal surgeries, or have severe adhesions (intra-abdominal scar tissue) can greatly increase surgery times.
  • Complexity: Complex hernias, often involving larger defects, previously placed mesh, fistulas, previous skin grafts or multiple hernias, demand more time for repair compared to simple ones.
  • Surgeon's Expertise: The surgeon's skill and experience play a crucial role in surgical efficiency.

Typical Duration of Hernia Surgeries

Now, let's delve into the typical durations of various hernia surgeries:

  1. Open Simple Ventral Hernia Surgery:  Ventral hernias is a broad term that usually refers to denovo (i.e. not caused by previous surgery) hernias of the abdominal wall.  These hernias are considered “primary” hernias and typically occur in the umbilicus (belly button) or the epigastrium (the area between your belly button and sternum).  Ventral hernias tend to be small, ie width are around 2cm or less.  On average, basic open ventral hernia surgery lasts between 30 minutes to an hour.
  1. Laparoscopic or Robotic Ventral Hernia Surgery:  These minimally invasive approaches tend to take longer than open surgery for small ventral hernias, but they tend to be more secure repairs that are less likely to fail.  On average, basic hernia surgeries of this type typically last between an hour to 2 hours.
  1. Laparoscopic or Robotic Inguinal Hernia Surgery: This minimally invasive approach boasts a quicker recovery time. On average, basic hernia surgeries of this type typically last between 30 minutes to an hour
  1. Robotic Complex Inguinal Hernia Surgery: Inguinal hernias are considered complex when the patient has old mesh in the groin, has had radiation to the pelvis, has had surgery in the pelvis (such as prostatectomy), or has a large hernia that goes into the scrotum.  Patient factors such as morbid obesity can also make inguinal hernia repairs more complex.  These surgeries require much more surgery time.  Complex hernias are difficult to complete laparoscopically, so most are done robotically.  Surgery times range from 1.5 to 3 hours or longer.
  1. Robotic Basic Ventral/Incisional Hernia Surgery:  Ventral/Incisional hernias that are larger, ie 2-4cm or patients who are at higher risk for failures from open repairs, benefit from robotic repair.  Robotic repairs allow mesh to be inserted behind the repaired defect to reinforce the repair, kind of like adding rebar to the abdominal tissue.  Basic Ventral/Incisional hernias typically take 1 to 2 hours to repair robotically.
  1. Robotic Complex Incisional Hernia Surgery:  Incisional hernias can be considered complex for many reasons, including multiple previous abdominal surgeries which increases the risk of adhesions, previous abdominal mesh, incarcerated hernias, or a hernia width greater than 5cm.  There are many more factors and the list is much too long and complex for this write-up.  Arrange for a consultation with Dr. Rockson Liu to determine if your hernia is considered complex.  The length of these surgeries are highly dependent on patient factors and the skillset and experience of the surgeon.  What may be considered complex by an average surgeon may be considered simple by an experienced surgeon with advanced robotic skillset and advanced repair techniques. 
  1. Open Complex Hernia Surgery: In Dr. Rockson Liu’s practice open surgery is reserved for only the most complex incisional hernias, since hernias fixed with open surgeries have higher complication rates and longer recovery.  Hernias that usually require open surgery include ones with intestinal fistulas (and opening of the intestine through the skin of the abdomen), giant defects (greater than 15cm wide), and loss of domain (most of the intestine resides outside of the abdominal cavity).  For open complex hernias surgery the operative time is highly variable but usually take 5 to 8 hours or even longer, contingent upon the hernia's size and complexity.

Remember that these are general timeframes, and individual cases can vary significantly. Your surgeon will provide a more precise estimate tailored to your specific condition.

Minimally Invasive vs. Open Surgery

While considering hernia surgery, you may wonder whether to opt for minimally invasive surgery or the traditional open approach. Beyond surgery duration, other factors, such as recovery time and potential complications, also factor into your decision.

Recovery and Postoperative Care

After hernia surgery, your recovery time isn't solely dependent on the duration of the surgery itself. Variables like your overall health, the type of anesthesia administered, and your body's response to surgery also come into play. Generally, patients can expect to resume regular activities within a few weeks, with complete recovery taking a bit longer.

Postoperative care is vital for a successful recovery. Your surgeon will provide specific instructions to follow during the recovery period. This may include restrictions on lifting heavy objects, dietary guidelines, and prescribed medications for pain management. It's crucial to adhere to these recommendations to ensure a smooth recovery process.

Consultation with a Surgeon

For precise information about the expected duration of your hernia surgery, it's crucial to consult a hernia specialist or surgeon. They'll assess your specific condition, considering factors like your overall health, the size and complexity of your hernia, and the surgical technique to be used. Based on this assessment, they'll provide a personalized estimate of the surgery's duration.

During the consultation, don't hesitate to ask any questions or express concerns you may have. Your surgeon is there to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision about your surgery.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the duration of hernia surgery isn't one-size-fits-all; it hinges on numerous factors. Whether you're considering laparoscopic, robotic, or open surgery, consult a qualified surgeon who can offer a precise estimate and guide you through the process. An informed decision can lead to a smoother surgical experience and a speedier recovery.

With this comprehensive guide, you're better equipped to understand and prepare for your hernia surgery, ensuring you're on the path to a healthier and more comfortable life.

Dr. Rockson Liu is One of the Best General and Hernia Surgeons in the United States

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“Dr. Rockson Liu performed colon surgery on me. I had full confidence in his skills and was very pleased with his performance. He explained thoroughly about using the robot in surgery as I was hesitant about its use. His bedisde manner is extraordinary and the way he cares for his patients is outstanding. He came to visit me on his day off in the hospital after surgery, as I was recovering. I was very pleased that I got such a skilled surgeon who is also a wonderful person.”

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Meet Dr. Rockson Liu, MD, FACS

The leading minimally-invasive, robotics-assisted general surgeon in the country

With 1000+ minimally-invasive, robotics-assisted surgeries completed, and a 100% success rate in ending recurrent hernias other surgeons were unable to solve, Dr. Liu has made a name for himself as the premier minimally-invasive general surgeon in the United States. 

Dr. Liu approaches every surgery with technical mastery and creative problem-solving. Those two skills allow for a faster recovery, minimal pain, and reduced scarring. 

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The leading minimally-invasive general and hernia repair surgeon on the West Coast, serving patients in the greater SF Bay Area. 

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