An inguinal hernia occurs when abdominal tissues protrude through a weak point (hole) in the groin muscle, causing lump in the groin or scrotum. It is the most common type of hernia in men. Though it is not necessarily dangerous, it might rupture and cause a number of serious complications. Ruptured hernias could be fatal without immediate medical /surgical intervention.
What happen if an inguinal hernia ruptures?
Surgery is not always necessary, especially when the hernia is small, reducible, and doesn’t bother you a lot. Meanwhile, your hernia is regularly monitored – you may need to have regular appointments with your doctor to check the condition. Nowadays, this watchful waiting approach is common since taking early surgery is not without risks.
But wait-and-see approach carries potential risks, too. One of them is a ruptured hernia, a very rare but could be fatal. See also about surgery vs. watchful waiting for hernias!
When it ruptures, you may have some of the following serious problems:
An obstruction in the digestive tract is often caused by a hard, large mass of stools that gets stuck – this is medically called fecal impaction. But if it is caused by something other than large-hard stools, this is called bowel obstruction.
Inguinal hernias can cause varying degrees of bowel obstruction. When part of your intestine pushes through the defect in the hernial sac, this can prevent foods and liquid from passing through your small or large intestine. And this obstruction can get much worse if the hernia ruptures.
It is a life-threatening condition in which the blood supply to the affected part of intestine decreases significantly. Without immediate surgical intervention, the blood supply will be entirely ‘cut off’ and you may develop intestinal perforation, tissue death, and shock afterward.
Strangulation can occur with or without ruptured hernia. It’s more likely to occur if your hernia is incarcerated (trapped).
Even though if your hernia doesn’t rupture, seek immediate medical help if you experience some of the following warning signs and symptoms:
- If the lump gets incarcerated. A mild, reducible hernia is usually easy to be pushed back to the abdominal activity or even the lump may disappear when you’re lying down. But if it doesn’t respond with lying down or manual pressure, see your doctor immediately!
- Your hernia pain gets worse (much worse than usual).
- Symptoms of bowel obstruction such as severe constipation and inability passing gas.
- Increased heart rate.
- Unexplained fatigue, nausea, or/and vomiting.
Tissue death and infection
Strangulation can cut off the blood supply to the affected area of intestine. A significant decrease in blood supply can drive the affected intestinal wall to die (tissue death). And this may also result in a tear (perforation).
Perforation can cause a serious, life-threatening infection in the abdominal cavity. Medically, this infection is also called ‘peritonitis’. The infection may also spread to other organs through circulation (bloodstream), causing multiple organ failure and death.
Emergency surgery is required
Now you know that ruptured hernia is very dangerous. It can kill you within hours if you don’t get prompt treatment immediately. Emergency surgical attention is important to effectively prevent further bowel obstruction, strangulation, and serious infection (sepsis) – as well as to quickly cover the hernial contents and heal the wound.
Mesh repair is usually used to cover the hernial contents if your general health and local situation of the operative site allow. Alternatively, they may be covered by skin which then followed by delayed surgical mesh repair.
Surgical mesh can help provide additional support to your damaged and weakened tissues. There are some types of surgical mesh, but the main ones are made from animal tissue or synthetic materials. Each type has its own pros and cons.
Animal-derived surgical mesh is produced from animal tissue such as skin or intestine that has been disinfected and processed. This type is usually absorbable. Over time, it will degrade and weaken. As it degrades, new growth of natural tissue is expected to support the repair.
Surgical mesh constructed from synthetic materials is available in a number of types; non-absorbable, absorbable, or a combination of non-absorbable & absorbable. Non-absorbable type is relatively stronger since it will remain in your body indefinitely. Therefore, it can be used for a permanent implant.