What to Expect from Surgery

Learn about hernia surgery and hernia surgery recovery

Below is information first about your the day of your hernia surgery, then about your hernia surgery recovery

What to expect on the day of surgery

You should arrive about 90 minutes prior to your scheduled operation. This will allow for time to meet various members of the team who will be taking care of you, including nurses and anesthesiology. You will have time to change into a hospital gown and have an IV line started. Bring a book or something to entertain you in the rare case that your surgery may be delayed.

Surgery will take about 60 minutes for a single hernia. Depending on the size and complexity of the hernia, surgery may take more or less time. After surgery is finished, you will be taken to the recovery room where you will stay for anywhere from 1-2 hours after the procedure until you go home to continue the recovery process.

We work very closely with our anesthesia team to provide you with the ideal balance of comfort for your surgery, while providing the best quality surgical repair. For some patients this means that they will have only a few sedative medications in addition to the local anesthesia that we will provide. Rarely, patients will require full general anesthesia. We take a team approach to give every patient individualized attention and care. Our goals are your comfort, safety and quality of repair.

You will likely feel relatively comfortable when you leave the hospital, as the numbing medication we inject into the area during surgery can last up to 8 hours. You should expect to feel more discomfort later at night and into the next day.

What to expect for the 2 weeks following surgery

Typically, the hardest part about hernia surgery recovery, is the discomfort  within the first 48 hours after surgery. By the third day after surgery, pain and discomfort will usually begin to improve. Swelling and discoloration any time within the first week of surgery is normal and to be expected, while it will not happen to every patient.

We strongly encourage going on walks each day following surgery. We have found that patients that get moving earlier tend to have a quicker recovery.

Almost 70% of our hernia patients will manage their post operative pain with a combination of Tylenol and Advil. You can stagger the timing of these medications, so that you are taking something every 4 hours.

For example:

  • Advil at 8AM
  • Tylenol at 12 noon
  • Advil at 4PM
  • Tylenol at 8PM

You will leave the hospital with a prescription for a narcotic medication, Vicodin, that you should take for pain not controlled by Tylenol and Advil. Please keep in mind that this medication can cause constipation, and has other side effects including nausea. You may not drive while taking this medication. You should try to avoid this medication if possible, but if you feel you need to take it, stop taking Tylenol.

Icing the area can help with some pain management as well. Make sure you do not put the ice directly on your skin, and only ice for 20 minutes at a time with a 20 minute break in between sessions.

Two days after surgery, you should peel off the top plastic bandage. This bandage is waterproof, so you may shower the day after surgery. Once the top bandage is removed, there will be steri-strips over the incision that will fall off on their own in about 10-14 days. Please leave these alone, as they provide extra protection to the incision. You may see some dried blood on the steri-strips, which is normal. You do not need to re-dress the area, and you can continue to shower with just the steri-strips over the incision. Do not soak in a pool, bath, or ocean for 2 weeks following surgery, as this increases the risk of infection. You are well into your hernia surgery recovery by this time.

You may return to work when you feel ready. For patients that do not have jobs requiring manual labor, almost half are able to return to work by Monday or Tuesday following a Friday surgery. This will depend on your specific recovery, as everyone is different. For patients who are required to lift over 25 lbs at work, you should wait at least 2 weeks before returning to work. You may return earlier if there are light duty options. These are very individualized decisions, as job requirements and hernia surgery recovery times can vary.

For the first 2 weeks after surgery, you should avoid lifting over 25 lbs and vigorous exercise. Vigorous exercise includes running, swimming, biking, hiking, and yoga. You are encouraged to walk as much as you feel comfortable, including the days immediately following surgery. You can also climb stairs in your house.

You may travel after this surgery if you feel comfortable enough to do so. Please refrain from lifting your luggage if it is over 25 lbs. If you are flying within 30 days of surgery, you should take a baby aspirin (81mg) for 7 days prior to your trip, throughout your trip, and for 7 days following your return flight. This is a safety measure to prevent blood clots, as the risk of blood clots increases following any procedure.

After you are 2 weeks post-op, you may return to any and all activity. We encourage you to slowly return to your normal exercise regimen, allowing your body to be the guide of what you can and can’t do. While some soreness with returning to normal activity is normal, do not do any activity that causes you a lot of pain in the area. Activities that involve rapid twisting or turning may sometime cause sharp aches and pains. This happens during the time the body heals from the surgery and incorporates the new mesh. Over the first 3 months, almost all of these symptoms resolve. If any unexpected pain or issues arise at any time after your 2-3 week postoperative appointment, please give us a call.

Our practice is deeply committed to continuous improvement. For this reason we need your help in filling out brief surveys about your symptoms and quality of life after surgery. We will do the first one together in the office, and will email you links to do this again 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years after surgery. The results of your answers will be combined with others’ in an anonymous way to allow us to improve the care we provide.

We are also interested in providing you the best experience possible. We created this page to better explain what to expect from your hernia surgery and your hernia surgery recovery.  It is very helpful to us if you provide a review of your experience on vitals.com and healthgrades.com. If you have suggestions on how we can better serve you, we welcome them. If you are dissatisfied with your care, please call us directly and ask to speak to our office manager.