Complex Hernias

What is a complex hernia?

A complex hernia often occurs at the site of an earlier hernia repair or a previous surgical incision. It involves a large portion of the abdominal wall and other organs, such as the bowels or omentum (fatty covering of the bowels). Complex hernias can also be found in patients who are diabetic or obese.

What is a parastomal hernia?

A parastomal hernia is a type of complex hernia that can occur as a complication following the creation of a stoma (an artificial opening on the wall of the abdomen).

What are the symptoms?

  • Abdominal pain
  • A “bulge” that is often tender to touch
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Previous hernia repair or incision.

How is it diagnosed?

Doctors use a physical exam and may use imaging studies, such as an ultrasound or a CT scan, to make a diagnosis.

Why should I get my hernia surgically repaired?

At present, the only treatment for a hernia is surgery. In addition to causing pain, they can trap, wrap around, or “strangle” part of the intestine, reducing the blood supply to the intestines. If left untreated, this would lead to severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and bowel obstruction and would require emergency surgery.

What is the surgical treatment?

Until recently, all of these hernias were repaired through large abdominal incisions. Some situations still require these types of repairs, but there are now successful minimally invasive approaches that can be used. We use laparoscopic tools to develop small tunnels between the skin and the muscle to release the tension in the abdomen. We use sutures, mesh, or both to reinforce and repair the abdominal wall.

This method allows for:

  • Faster recovery time
  • Decreased risk of infection
  • Less postoperative pain
  • A shorter hospital stay
  • You and your surgeon will discuss the best treatment option for you. 

What can I expect after surgery?

Recovery time and post-operative instructions vary among patients, depending on the size and complexity of the hernia. Most patients require a short hospital stay. You and your surgeon will discuss any specific recovery plans.

Contact us

Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 or request an appointment to learn more about AHN general surgery services.

For follow-up questions related to your hernia care, contact the Comprehensive’s Hernia Center’s Clinical Coordinator, Jennifer Somers at (412) 578-4215 or at