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What is an Intestinal Hernia?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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An intestinal hernia is a hernia in which the intestines push through the abdominal wall, creating a distinctive lump. The majority of hernias are inguinal hernias, which means that they appear around the groin region. This type of hernia is fairly common, occurring in people of all ages and all levels of physical condition. It is important to seek treatment for an intestinal hernia, as serious complications can develop if the hernia is allowed to persist.

The large or small intestine can be involved in a hernia. In both cases, the intestines find a weak point in the abdominal wall and push through it, creating what is known as a hernial sac. The herniation of the intestines can be accompanied by severe pain, and it is usually readily apparent because of the distinctive lump which forms under the skin. People can develop hernias after abdominal surgery, or as a result of severe strain.

Hernias must be treated surgically. In a hernia repair surgery, the intestines are pushed back into place and the weak point is covered with hernia mesh. The mesh keeps the intestines in place and provides a framework for tissue to grow on, effecting a repair while allowing the site to heal. While waiting for surgery, a patient may be asked to wear a hernia belt which applies pressure to the site, preventing the hernia from getting worse and increasing comfort.

In a reducible intestinal hernia, the intestines can easily be pushed back into place during the hernia repair. Incarcerated hernias involve loops of intestine which become trapped in the hernial sack, and they can become very serious medical problems. If the intestines are allowed to remain incarcerated, they may become strangulated, losing access to their blood supply. The loss of blood will cause the tissue in the intestines to die, causing the onset of gangrene.

An untreated intestinal hernia can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, and other intestinal problems as a result of bowel obstruction caused by the herniation. If a patient develops severe symptoms, it indicates that the hernia is incarcerated or strangulated, which means that the hernia has turned into a surgical emergency which requires prompt treatment. Patients with reducible hernias who are waiting for surgery are often advised to keep a close eye out for symptoms, so that if the signs of an incarcerated intestinal hernia do emerge, they can promptly go to the hospital for emergency surgery to repair the hernia.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By leo1966 — On Feb 18, 2014

I was in the hospital last week visiting my dad, and I was sleeping overnight in the recliner in the room,

My dad is a fall risk patient, and was repostitioning himself in his bed, which set off the nurse alarm, which I tried to reach. Upon reaching the cancel button, I felt a horrible pain on my right side and a popping feeling. It was within 2" of the ribcage, and was very painful.

Every time now, when I turn onto my right side I feel a pain in the 3 range on 1 to 10 pain scale. The spot where the pain is doesn't show a bruise, but is a little firm and painful to the touch. I am concerned it might be a hernia. Is there a way to confirm this, and determine if it is a thing that needs a surgical remedy? I'm scared to go under a knife for this.

By anon313885 — On Jan 15, 2013

Would it be possible to have a hernia two inches below the rib cage?

By anon216440 — On Sep 21, 2011

I was just told I have an intestinal hernia with a loop in my small intestines. I have been having pain in my right hip for weeks, only relieved if I lay on that hip. Strange. What do you think? And should I be worried about the surgery? Meeting with the surgeon next week.

By bikeamtn — On Jun 08, 2011

FYI: Presented to ER with sharp lower abdominal pain and had MRI which did not show a condition. Was referred for a colonoscopy, then an upper GI series, also showed negative but the bulge feeling near the right hip bone is always present (especially while driving or on the toilet) and will now have exam by surgeon. This has been going now for a year which I don’t understand and now have had it, with all the cost for this, why so difficult? It feels like I have a little balloon inside.

By anon158725 — On Mar 08, 2011

what are locations of the abdominal wall where intestinal herniation is most likely to occur?

By LittleMan — On Jul 30, 2010

@closerfan12 -- A lot of the intestinal hernia symptoms are the same as general abdominal hernia symptoms.

Besides those mentioned above, some people have diarrhea or too dark/too light stools, and a general feeling of illness. Many people also feel a perceptible bulge, although this is not always the case.

However, anybody with these symptoms should contact their doctor immediately if they develop a fever, which could be a sign of infection.

By closerfan12 — On Jul 30, 2010

What are some of the other symptoms of intestinal hernias?

By EarlyForest — On Jul 30, 2010

@anon86487 -- That sounds like it could be an inguinal hernia, if it is located on the inside of your hip.

These are more common in men, following the path by which testicles descended, but can also show up in women as well.

The most common inguinal hernia symptoms are a bulge in the groin, pain and discomfort in the area, which is relieved only when you lie down.

If it is located on the outside of your hip bone I'm really not sure -- there's not too much muscle to bulge in that area, are you sure it's a hernia?

By anon86487 — On May 25, 2010

What kind of hernia would be located near your right hip bone?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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