Post-Hernia Surgery Symptoms

Dealing With Chronic Pain After Hernia Surgery

A man suffers from abdomen pain.
A man suffers from abdomen pain.. stock_colors/Getty Images

If you're dealing with post-hernia surgery symptoms, this can be frustrating. After all, you expected the surgery to take away your pain.

Sometimes after a hernia repair, pain symptoms persist for longer than the expected surgery recovery time, and unfortunately may even become chronic.

Persistent post-hernia repair pain is a type of chronic postoperative pain. Chronic post-hernia repair pain, also known as post-herniorrhaphy neuralgia, is often a problem for people recovering from different types of hernia surgery.

If your pain still hasn't gone away three months after hernia repair surgery and is not related to other causes, you may be diagnosed with post-herniorrhaphy neuralgia.

How Common Is Post-Hernia Repair Pain?

You should know that you're not alone.

Research shows that a year after hernia repair surgery, up to half of patients still have some groin pain. In fact, as many as 15 percent of people have pain that is moderate, severe or even disabling - meaning it interferes with their daily activities like sitting and walking.

What Causes the Pain?

Post-hernia repair pain is usually caused by damage to the nerves in the lower abdomen and groin.

During surgery, if these nerves become damaged or trapped in the sutures, staples or mesh, chronic post-hernia repair pain can develop.

This is an example of a neuropathic cause.

However, some post hernia repair pain is described as being somatic as well, or caused by damage to soft tissues.

Post-Hernia Repair Pain Risks

The risks for developing chronic post-hernia repair pain are greater for people who:

  • are younger
  • have a history of preoperative pain
  • had a prior surgery less than three years before
  • have severe early postoperative pain
  • have postoperative complications
  • have preoperative sensory disorder
  • are female
  • have Iliohypogastric nerve excision during hernia repair
  • have recurrent hernia repair
  • have anterior hernia repair

Age appears to be the biggest factor in chronic post-hernia repair pain. One study found that 58 percent of people under the age of 40 had persistent groin pain after the surgery, compared to 14 percent of people over 60. This is likely because younger people tend to be more physically active.

Post-Hernia Surgery Symptoms

Chronic post-hernia repair pain is typically described as burning, stabbing or pricking. It may be located in the groin, though it also may be reported in and around the scar site as well as the upper thigh.

For some people, the pain is worse when they're standing, sitting or climbing stairs. Some men feel pain during sex.

And in some cases, post-hernia repair pain is mild, while in others it can be much more severe.

Some people have a pain-free interval before the onset or return of chronic post-hernia repair pain.

Treating Post-Hernia Repair Pain

Chronic post-hernia repair pain can be treated with the following:

And there's good news: You probably won't have the pain forever.

In about 30 percent of patients with persistent pain after hernia repair, the pain goes away on its own within six months.

And one study found that five years after hernia repair surgery, fewer than 3 percent of patients still had moderate to severe pain.

Sources:

Persistent groin pain following hernia repair and post-herniorrhaphy neuralgia. UpToDate. October 31, 2013.

Somaiah, A. and Spence, R. AJ. Chronic Pain After Hernia Surgery –An Informed Consent Issue. Ulster Medical Journal. 2007 September; 76(3): 136–140.

Dickinson, KJ , Thomas, M., Fawole, A.S., et al. Predicting Chronic Post-Operative Pain Following Laparoscopic Inguinal Hernia Repair. Hernia. Volume 12, Number 6 / December, 2008.

Fränneby, U., Sandblom, G., Nordin, P., et al. Risk Factors for Long-term Pain After Hernia Surgery. Annals of Surgery. 2006 August; 244(2): 212–219.

Macrae, W.A. Chronic Post-Surgical Pain: 10 Years On. British Journal of Anaesthesia.

Massaron S, Bona S, Fumagalli U et al. Analysis of Post-Surgical Pain After Inguinal Hernia Repair: A Prospective Study of 1,440 Operations. Hernia. Volume 11, Number 6, December 2007 , pp. 517-525(9).

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