Open Umbilical/Ventral Hernia Repair without Mesh

You are having an open umbilical or ventral hernia repair without mesh. This type of repair is only done for female patients with thin abdominal wall and very small hernias. 


The procedure:

Open umbilical/ventral hernia repair without mesh involves using permanent stitches to close the hernia hole. A small incision is made at the belly button or over your hernia and the hernia contents that have bulged through this hole are returned back into the abdomen where they belong. The hernia is then closed with stitches. Because these stitches are the only protection you will have against your hernia coming back, we use stitches that do not dissolve. The surgery is usually less than an hour long.



This surgery is usually accomplished without general anesthesia and most of the time with just IV sedation (similar to the anesthesia for a colonoscopy) and local numbing medication. There are also benefits to reduced pain and quicker recovery when general anesthesia is avoided as is usually the case with this type of repair.   


Why we recommend this surgery:

We tend to recommend this repair to only a few female patients who are very thin and have very small hernias. Because hernias tend to develop over time, usually stitches alone are not enough to prevent hernias from recurring. The exception to this rule is in the case of hernias that develop in part due to pregnancy – when the abdominal wall rapidly stretches. Because of this, some women may be reasonable candidates for this repair. This is performed through the least invasive approach possible. Patients with this type of surgery need to be very careful to allow the area to heal and be committed to avoiding strenuous physical activity for about 4 weeks after surgery. Most patients do not require opioid pain medications after surgery and can get back to work within a few days of surgery so long as they do not have a very physical job. 


A note on mesh:

Though this type of repair doesn’t use mesh, we always have to accept the possibility of requiring mesh depending on the findings at the time of surgery. For example, if we start out with a plan to repair your hernia with stitches alone but we find that the tissues we would be sewing are very week, and your risk of recurrence of the hernia would be very high, we may have to change plans and perform a mesh repair.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to understand some things about a mesh repair. Patients often ask us “Is mesh safe?” The mesh we use has been used millions of times and is well tolerated by patients. There are lawsuits related to a specific type of mesh that was taken off the market several years back. We do not use this mesh. There are other concerns related to where mesh is placed in the groin. In the case of inguinal hernia repair (not your kind of hernia repair), this usually relates to stitching and placing mesh over the area of the three nerves in the groin. When one of these nerves is inadvertently injured, patients can develop chronic pain. For umbilical hernia repair with mesh, we are not placing mesh near large nerves like these and the risk of chronic pain is extraordinarily low. Additionally, when using a foreign material like mesh, there is a chance that material becomes infected. Your body can’t defend infection in a foreign material as well as it can in our own bodies. Fortunately, this is very rare (about 1 in 10,000) but can result in the need for the mesh to be removed.


Risks of surgery:

During your appointment, you discussed the risks of surgery. Unfortunately, there is no way to have a risk-free surgery but we do everything we can to minimize the chance that you have a complication related to one of these risks. 

  1. Hernia recurrence 10-12/100 – Hernias can come back after repair. After open umbilical or ventral hernia repair without mesh, the risk of recurrence is usually around 10-12%. This is definitely higher for no mesh repairs over mesh repairs. 
  2. Infection risk – 1/200 – If an infection occurs after surgery, this is well treated with antibiotics. 
  3. Bleeding – 1/400 – The risk of any significant bleeding after umbilical hernia repair is less than 1/400 and this is kept very low risk when patients adhere to activity restrictions in the first couple weeks after surgery.


Preparing for surgery: 

  • Please continue to be as active as you normally are. It is safe to exercise as long as you do not have pain with your activities. 
  • Make sure you have acetaminophen (tylenol) and ibuprofen (motrin, advil) at home as these medications are typically all that is needed to treat post-operative pain.
  • No bowel prep is needed before surgery. 
  • You may or may not need to have a Covid test within 72 hours before surgery. This is dependent on the policies at the location you are having surgery. Our medical assistants give you instructions on how best to arrange this at the time of your consultation. 
  • Depending on what facility you are having surgery in, another step is required prior to surgery: 
    • Newton-Wellesley Hospital – Our medical assistants will schedule you a pretesting phone appointment and we will contact you regarding the scheduling of this appointment. 
    • BOSS– You were given a sheet detailing what you need to do to register prior to surgery. 
    • Surgical Center of NH at Derry – You will receive an email or text from the surgery center itself to register as a new patient.  


The day of surgery: 

  • Please be prepared to leave for the hospital earlier than your planned time and keep an eye on your phone in case someone calls you from the hospital or surgery center. Sometimes we have to start earlier than planned and will call you if so. We really appreciate your flexibility.
  • Please arrive promptly at the time you are given as a lot has to happen before you are wheeled into the operating room.
  • You will get an IV, meet the team (including the preoperative nurses, the OR nurse, the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist), and see your surgeon and physician assistant in preparation for surgery. 
  • After surgery, you will spend about 1-2 hours in the recovery room before you go home. 


After surgery: 

  • Take acetaminophen and ibuprofen together every 6 hours for the first 2-5 days for pain control. 
  • Avoid any activity more strenuous than casual walking for two weeks after surgery.
  • Remove bandage (if present) 48 hours after surgery. 
  • Please see these instructions for more details on your post-operative care.
  • A note on resuming exercise after the 3-4 week recovery period: Once you are three to four weeks out from surgery, you can start testing different activities. Approach activities slowly until you are sure they don’t cause you sharp pain. Any activity that causes sharp pain at the incision should be avoided. If you feel well and are active throughout one day, it is normal to feel more sore the next day while you continue to recover. You didn’t hurt yourself so long as you don’t push through an activity that’s causing you pain while doing it. Ultimately, the goal after you are fully recovered is to get you back to all of your activities without restriction. For most of our patients who have this type of surgery, they are back to most of their pre-op activities about 6 weeks after surgery.  


We hope this information has helped you prepare for your upcoming hernia surgery. If you have any questions about the above information, please call our office to set up a follow up appointment so that we can ensure all of your questions are adequately answered and you feel comfortable prior to your surgery.