If, when you think of a hernia, it brings to mind a condition only your father or grandfather needed to be concerned with, you’re not alone. There are many misconceptions about hernias, and the failure to seek a proper diagnosis can lead to unnecessary suffering and risk of complications.

To help East Tennesseans understand what a hernia is (or isn’t) and how it can be treated, Tennova Healthcare is sharing the facts about this common condition. Hernias affect approximately 2 percent of the adult population in the U.S. and 4 percent of the infant population. Further, the estimates for white men can be as high as 20 percent. While there are several types of hernias that can occur in various areas of the body, inguinal hernias are by far the most common.

“An inguinal hernia occurs when tissue—such as part of the intestine—protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall,” said Nitin Rangnekar, M.D., a general surgeon with Tennova Surgical Associates. “While inguinal hernias are not necessarily dangerous, it’s best to explore treatment options with your physician. The hernia will not improve on its own, can be quite painful, and can lead to complications when not treated.”

Common signs that you might have a hernia include:

  • A bulge in the area on either side of your pubic bone
  • A burning or aching feeling at the site of the bulge, especially when you bend, cough or lift a heavy object
  • Heaviness or “dragging feeling” in your groin area, especially at the end of the day
  • In some cases, pain and swelling around the testicles

While some hernias have no apparent cause, others might occur as a result of chronic and/or severe coughing, straining during bowel movements, or strenuous activity. Although inguinal hernias are far more common in men than in women, they can affect people of any age or gender. Some key risk factors include:

  • Being male: Men are eight times more likely than women to develop an inguinal hernia.
  • Being older: Abdominal muscles weaken as you get older.
  • Family history: Your risk is higher if an immediate family member has had a hernia.
  • Pregnancy: Being pregnant can weaken abdominal muscles and increase pressure inside your abdomen.
  • Chronic cough or constipation: Both create a pattern of pressure on the abdominal walls.
  • Premature birth or low birth weight: The abdominal wall may not have had sufficient time to develop in the womb.

If you have pain or a noticeable bulge in any area around your groin or pubic bone, make an appointment with your primary care physician. The physician will most likely ask you to stand, and the examination will include feeling for a bulge or reaction when you cough or strain your muscles. In the case of an inguinal hernia, the bulge may disappear when you lie down on the exam table. Imaging studies are typically not necessary, but if the examination is not conclusive, you may be prescribed an ultrasound or CT scan for a more definitive look at the cause of your discomfort.

According to Dr. Rangnekar, most inguinal hernias are not medical emergencies, but there are exceptions. In the case of an incarcerated hernia or strangulation, there is the potential for life-threatening complications and it is important to seek prompt medical attention.

“A hernia does not get better over time,” he said. “And there are no exercises, medications or physical therapies that can reverse the condition. While some hernias are considered small or mild enough to be left untreated, most cases are best resolved surgically.”

Hernia repair surgery is one of the most common general surgeries performed in the U.S., with more than 600,000 procedures performed each year. If you are deemed a candidate for surgical repair, your surgeon will explain the pros and cons of the conventional open  vs. the less invasive laparoscopic or robotic-assisted hernia repair method, and which approach is more appropriate for your situation.


Tennova Healthcare offers minimally invasive surgery options, including robotic-assisted hernia repair. Dr. Rangnekar is among a select group of surgeons in East Tennessee trained in this advanced surgical procedure. He performs surgery exclusively at Turkey Creek Medical Center in Knoxville.

“Most hernia operations are performed on an outpatient basis, which means you can expect to return home on the same day the surgery is performed,” Dr. Rangnekar said. “With the minimally invasive robotic-assisted surgery technique, you’ll likely experience smaller scars, less pain and a quicker return to normal activities.”

If you have concerns about abdominal pain or discomfort, don’t suffer needlessly or risk allowing a minor problem to worsen. Make an appointment with your primary care physician.

For more information or to find a doctor, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit Tennova.com.

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About Tennova Healthcare

One of the state’s largest health networks, Tennova Healthcare includes 16 hospitals and more than 115 physician clinics. The combined network has approximately 2,600 licensed beds, 2,800 physicians on the combined active medical staffs, and 9,000 employees, with more than 70,000 admissions and 465,000 emergency department visits each year. Learn more at www.Tennova.com.  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 06/01/2018-6AM)