1. Don’t Panic About Hernia Surgery
With injuries, illness, and other medical diagnoses, naturally comes anxiety and an overall uneasiness. Hernias are quite common, and in the hands of a specialist, they are very reliably repaired. So, stay calm. Maybe that’s easier said than done but trust the process. You’re going to be fine. You can see what the most frequently asked questions are related to your hernia in this comprehensive section.
2. Pick Your Doc
The first step for anyone with a hernia (that may or may not require surgical repair) is to choose a hernia specialist who’s right for them. Ask your primary care provider about his/her recommendations. Conduct some online research about local specialists in your area. Talk to family members and friends who have had hernia experiences. When you find a surgeon with whom you feel confident, it will make the hernia repair journey a lot smoother.
3. See Your Doc
After you make an appointment with your hernia surgeon, you’ll be scheduled for a pre-op examination and a meeting with the surgery center’s team. Together, they’ll answer your questions and lay out a plan of action for the safest and most proven surgical procedure. When you go into this meeting, be prepared with some general information including:
- Symptoms: How long have you had discomfort? Have your symptoms changed or worsened recently?
- Previous Surgery & Medical Information: Are you on any medication? Do you have any other diagnosed conditions? Have you had hernia surgery before? If you had any x-rays or scans, be sure to bring them to your initial appointment. It may save you another visit.
- Questions: Write down any questions you have about hernias, surgical repairs, and recovery guidelines. Your medical team will answer them during your initial consultation. Here are 7 questions you should ask your surgeon
4. Insurance Details
Work with your chosen surgeon and team to ensure that all the insurance and payment details are ironed out prior to your surgery date. Many insurance companies still require referrals from your primary care provider. These referrals must be in place before you can be seen by most hernia specialists. Please check with your own insurance company well before your appointment. This will eliminate the stressors that exist when you’re unsure about the financial aspects of your surgery.
5. General Wellness Before Surgery
Take good care of yourself in the days/weeks leading up to your surgery. Eat well, stay hydrated, exercise at levels that do not cause excessive pain to the hernia and get plenty of sleep. Remember #1 — try to keep a positive outlook – over 1 million people go through hernia surgery each year in the US.
6. Pre-Op Tests
Only people with pre-existing medical conditions and those over 65 may sometimes require pre-op blood work or ECG. Your surgeon will work closely with the surgery center or hospital. They will decide if you need to have testing based on your age, fitness level, existing medical conditions, prior surgeries, medication use, etc. The most common preoperative tests are blood tests and ECG. These tests are normally done a week or two prior to surgery. They can often be done in your primary care provider’s office.
7. Medication Instructions
During the week before surgery, you’ll want to follow all your doctor’s orders regarding meds, including:
- If you regularly use blood thinners or aspirin, your primary care provider or cardiologist will advise you if it is safe to stop these medications before surgery.
- Do not take diet medications, certain herbal supplements like St. John’s Wort, or Vitamin E.
- If you have a heart condition and take heart medication, make sure to touch base with your primary care provider or cardiologist. Most patients take these important medications even the morning of surgery with a sip of water.
- If your doctor allows you to take any medications on the day of surgery, take them with only a slight sip of water. Please don’t eat anything on the day of surgery as it may postpone your surgery, for your own safety.
8. General Pre-Op Guidelines
- Patients should not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery. Follow these instructions exactly, because if you don’t your surgery might get postponed.
- Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery.
- Do not apply any lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish before surgery.
- Please don’t shave the surgical site yourself. Your team will take care of that.
- Take off your jewelry including earrings and piercings.
- If you wear contact lenses, you’ll be asked to remove them before your procedure.
9. Know What To Expect After Surgery
Review your surgeon’s postoperative instructions online whenever possible. During your surgery appointment, or after, you should learn what to expect after surgery. You should know what to expect in terms of pain and pain medication. You should know when you can drive after surgery – it’s never the day of surgery. Returning to work depends on what you do and what kind of hernia you are having repaired. Don’t forget to ask these important questions during your initial consultation.
10. Informed Consent
You’re almost home! At check-in you’ll sign an informed consent form. By signing, you acknowledge that you understand the procedure; that your doctor has discussed the operation and its potential risks; and that you know what medications you will receive (if any). If you have questions about surgery, reach out to your surgeon in the weeks prior to your surgery as the day of surgery is busy and not the ideal time to ask questions about what the surgery is. It’s often better to call or even go in for another appointment to feel comfortable and informed.
Like most surgeons, we’ll walk you through the whole process so you have a complete grasp of everything you need to know. Our mission is to make your hernia repair as easy and painless as it can possibly be. You’ll be back to your normal routine in no time flat!
Dr. Michael Reinhorn is a specialist in inguinal hernia and umbilical hernia. He started his practice as a general surgeon in 2001, and in 2012 he transitioned to focus on the care of hernia patients. In 2018, he co-founded Boston Hernia, an ambulatory surgery practice focused exclusively on hernia surgery. In 2020, Dr. Nora Fullington was recruited from her work as a general surgeon, where she performed hundreds of laparoscopic hernia repairs, to Boston Hernia where she was intensively trained by Dr. Reinhorn in the open preperitoneal and Shouldice techniques. Together with their physician assistant team, they perform approximately 800 hernia surgeries every year. Both surgeons offer a tailored approach for each patient, taking into account individual patient factors to decide if surgery is recommended or not, what type of repair (open, laparoscopic, mesh, non-mesh) is best, and what type of anesthesia is safest. At Boston Hernia, our focus is on each individual patient and continuously improving our own surgical techniques and outcomes. We do this by participating in various hernia societies, studying our own outcomes through a national database, and publishing our data to influence the care of hernia patients nationally and internationally. Boston Hernia is an affiliate practice of the Mass General Brigham system. In addition to operating at Mass General Brigham Newton-Wellesley Hospital, we offer care at ambulatory surgery centers in Waltham, MA and Derry, NH.