Ventral Hernia Repair–What to Expect

Oct 5, 2016 by

I had a ventral hernia repaired in my abdomen Sept. 26, 2016. Today is Oct. 5. It’s nine days post-op and I am posting this information because leading up the my surgery, I surfed the Internet for information about what recovering from a ventral hernia would be like and I have to tell you, NOTHING was helpful nor accurate.

Ventral Hernia surgery is no picnic.

Ventral Hernia surgery is no picnic.

My Dallas surgeon initially had my procedure set up as outpatient. Even the morning we arrived at the hospital nurses were still telling me I’d likely be going home because that’s how it was listed. My pre-op nurse from a few days before said that would not be the case, and even my doctor had begun by the Thursday before to say I probably wouldn’t be going home the day of. Now why that was not changed, I cannot explain. I asked late last week and didn’t get a clear answer. It’s somewhere between working with insurance and “everyone reacts differently.”

Things To Know About Ventral Hernias

A hernia happens when part of your abdominal muscles rip and tissue from deeper inside your gut punches through. In my case, the hole was 6 cm by 5 cm and a mass of tissue had accumulated under my belly button, stretching it to a disgusting look. All in all, the mass was 16 cm by 10 cm. This was NOT cut OUT of my stomach. No, it was crammed all back into the hole and then a mesh was placed over it and sewn into my abdominal muscles.

This was all revealed via a CT scan the week before surgery. This involved drinking the bariatric lemonade (there are other flavors) and then having an MRI done of my lower abdomen. A few days later they had me return to drink some of the pasty, fizzy gag-inducing radioactive stuff so they could watch me swallow in real time. The doctors were looking for a hiatal hernia during the upper GI scan, but thankfully nothing was found.

The CT scan also showed an inguinal hernia, which needed repairing, too.

Surgery

We were told beforehand that surgery would take an hour and a half and recovery would be another hour. I went back to surgery at 0730. I had not regained my senses until about 1430 (2:30 p.m.) roughly six hours later.

My surgery was done laparoscopically. Four incisions were made around my stomach so they could put hoses in for tools and to inflate my stomach with CO2 so there was room to work around inside. Because of the displacement from pushing the 16 x 10 cm mass back into my gut, my doctor also did something of a tummy tuck around my belly button with a three-four inch cut going up and down from my navel south. So there are five cuts. They weren’t sealed with stitches but with new fangled high-powered glue. Amazing. (I say all this because sometimes this is done with “open” cuts, where more like a C-section, a long incision is made.)

Recovery

I was taken up to a room in the hospital and put in one of those horrible Hill-Rom beds that is like an inflated bean-bag. Whenever I got comfortable and thought I had good support, the damned thing shifted, like it was deciding what was better for me. And when I tried to get up all the rest of the week, it was a horrific experience because I didn’t have anything solid to use to push off of—it was like trying to climb out of a pile of leaves. The Hill-Rom bed is the WORST bed possible for hernia recovery and someone should really re-think this. I will do a separate post another day on how sucky the Hill-Rom bed is.

Nurse Ratched wasn't my actual nurse, but one of the ones who treated me could have been 1000 times nicer.

Nurse Ratched wasn’t my actual nurse, but one of the ones who treated me could have been 1000 times nicer.

The night of my surgery, the head nurse of the floor (hereby known as Nurse Ratched) was in my room demanding I get up out of bed. She had two orderlies come in and try to PULL me up out of the bed, which only produced screams of 12-13 pain (the scale only goes to 10—10 when you think you’re going to pass out). Finally one of them defied orders to pull me out of bed and walked out of the room.

I was on morphine every two hours for a day and a half. Even with every two hours, I was still in 7-8 abdominal pain. Then they moved me over to hydrocodone. It did little to relieve pain as well. Be ready for that.

After Nurse Ratched’s episode on Monday night, by the time I figured she’d be coming on Tuesday morning at 0700, I was doing all I could to move my left leg and then my right leg over to the side of the bed so I could sit and then stand. I wanted to do it on my terms and Lord forbid be pulled again.

I was told that the more I got up, sat up, and walked, the better it was going to be for my abdominal muscles. Nurse Ratched was off the next two days and I never had her assigned to me again. She did explain to me Thursday evening when she was trying to restart a badly-placed IV that never ended up working, that she’d been concerned about my developing pneumonia and that’s why she had been so insistent on my getting up out of bed.

By the time I was trying to get out of bed Tuesday morning, I felt like a huge bit of phlegm was accumulating in my chest. That spurred me on, as well as thoughts of Nurse Ratched, to get up. I began using the spirometer every hour, too, to ensure I was getting air deep into my lungs.

Sitting Up and Drinking Lots of Fluids

I was not hungry nor thirsty Tuesday and into Wednesday. My IV was still pumping saline into me, so I was getting fluids, but my urine output was dark and about 100-150 ccs. One of the nurses went and got me a big hospital mug filled with ice and water and told me I had until she left that day to drink two of them. This was not easy to do.

The other thing that was going on here, as explained by my doctor, was that my intestinal track was asleep. It had pretty much shut down so as food was going in, it was backing up. This was in part because of the pain meds, but also because of the anesthesia and the shock all of this brought to my system.

I did not want to have a BM and they kept asking if I was passing gas, which I wasn’t and didn’t until Thursday. Any one just reading this might say that’s too much information, but I wish I’d known all this going in.

My doctor also would say, “tomorrow we will talk about when we send you home.” That didn’t mean I was going home the next day. That meant we were going to talk about when I might.

The BM was a significant factor, but so was my incredible pain, AND I was distended in my stomach. That’s a nice way of saying I was bloated and with the bloating, they weren’t going to send me home, either.

I’m Home Now

A week and two days later, I remain in a fair amount of pain. I received a call from a nurse at the hospital yesterday who was asking about how I was doing on my meds and I told her I was trying to only take the hydrocodone at night and using Tylenol during the day. Because of a back injury in May, I’ve had to take it regularly for pain. A fusion of my back is now tentatively set for mid-December—when I will be able to handle lying on my stomach again for four hours. .

My nurse said to worry about hydrocodone dependence in a few weeks.

“A ventral hernia is a serious surgery,” she said. “You’re not going to be sore for just another week or two, but probably at least another three weeks.”

I told her, “Yeah, and no one really told me that going in.”

“I know, but that’s how it is. You need to take your meds. If you’re taking meds because you’re in pain, that’s different than taking pain meds because you’re not.”

Binder and Spanx

I have a binder for my stomach which I’m supposed to wear the next two weeks. I also have a back brace because of a three-level laminectomy on Aug. 11. Yesterday I received a 2X Spanx T-Shirt for men, and I have to tell you, it works better than either the binder or the back brace. I highly recommend the Spanx shirt. HIGHLY.

I’ve included a picture to the right. I hate how I look these days, but it was worse before the hernia repair because there was an extra bulge I no longer have. This pic might be seen as negative by some but for me, it’s a personal victory.

A Spanx for men 2X shirt holding my all in, giving needed back and stomach support following two significant surgeries.

A Spanx for men 2X shirt holding me all in, giving needed back and stomach support following two significant surgeries.

So I’m on meds still. It still hurts to get up and down out of bed. I’ve been walking at least one mile each day to help with stomach and back muscle stability. And I’m taking my hydro again every 4-6 hours as prescribed.

Conclusion

Maybe you will do better with a ventral hernia than I did. The surgery results according to my doctor are “Great.” The pain from it all is more than what I was led to believe it was, but more in line with what I had suspected. I never accepted the thought that sewing a mesh into my abdominal wall was going to be a picnic. It has not been, but I am on the mend. From all accounts, if your doctor is going to do your surgery laparoscopically, celebrate. I know two friends who had the open version and somehow what they endured is even worse. One friend had a 24-inch incision. I have five—one about 3-4 inches long and the others are each about one inch in length. If you’re not ready to get up out of bed the first day, don’t. But you do need to get up and sit and walk. You do need to drink fluids and to eat and eat enough so that eventually your intestines will push all that’s in you on out. Don’t be afraid to ask for the pain meds. And at one point, they make it so you have to ask for them and in your stupor, you may miss that. Having someone in the hospital with you also helps because my floor was so busy once I hit the call button—BTW, the one on the Hill-Rom bed didn’t work—it took a good 30-40 minutes before my nurse would appear, staffing was so tight.

With the Spanx shirts I feel better and with the big bulge off my stomach, I think I look better, too.

I hope this helps.

4 Comments

  1. It’s interesting to read about what one might expect with hernia repair surgery. It makes sense that it would hurt for the few days and nights. I didn’t realize that it might actually be hard to eat or drink due to the lack of appetite whether it’s from the medication or the pain. It’s something to talk to my brother about just to make sure that he is fully prepared for when he gets his surgery.

  2. Theresa

    So glad I found this! Thank you! I have my hernia repair Monday so I feel a little more prepared.

  3. Crys

    Glad I found this. I have surgery to.orrow. Open though. Not blessed enough to to have it laproscopically. My new hernia is along my previous incision from an open nissen due to a paraesophageal diaphragmatic hernia last Feb. They will cut along the same incision for this surgery which runs from my breastbone bone to my belly button. Fun start to the new year! Ha!

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