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Ventral hernia

Ventral hernias include lots of different types of hernia, such as those through or next to the belly button (umbilical or paraumbilical) and those between the belly button and the breast bone (epigastric). They also include hernias through the site of a previous operation (incisional). As with any hernia, they cause a lump which may cause no other symptoms, can be achy or painful, and occasionally can cause an emergency problem with severe pain and potentially other problems such as a blockage in the bowel.

When to repair a ventral hernia

If a hernia is not causing any symptoms other than a noticeable lump, with no pain or discomfort, it is reasonable to keep an eye on it without planning an operation. Your doctor can explain the benefits and risks of this to you. If it is causing symptoms such as an ache or pain, and you are fit for an operation, you and your doctor may agree to have it fixed with an operation.

Preparing for an operation

If you are going to have an operation, your doctor will explain this to you and answer any questions you may have. You will also go through a pre-operative assessment process which will help give you more information, as well as an opportunity to ask more questions.

To help you get the best result and minimise the risks of surgery, your doctor and the preoperative team may make suggestions for lifestyle changes. Based upon expert advice produced by the Danish Hernia Society (available here), these include:

  • Stopping smoking (as soon as possible, but a minimum of 6 weeks before your operation);
  • Losing weight (to achieve a body mass index or BMI below 35 kg/m2);
  • Ensuring diabetes is well controlled (HbA1C < 60 mmol/mol).

Repair techniques

There are several different techniques that may be used to repair a ventral hernia. These include key-hole and open surgery. Except in small hernias and emergency operations, most ventral hernias require a mesh to help reinforce the repair and reduce the risk of the hernia coming back.


The general risks of repairing a ventral hernia include bleeding, infection, clots on the legs or lungs, damage to nearby structures, and the hernia coming back. Specific risks may be determined by where the hernia is, what is contained inside the hernia, and other conditions that a person has, such as diabetes or lung disease. Your doctors will explain more about any benefits and risks associated with repairing your hernia.


Henriksen N A and Helgstrand F. The Danish Hernia Database (2018). Available at