Open Hernia Repair |Treatment & Risk | MedStar Health

Open repair is the most commonly performed procedure for the treatment of hernias. This surgery is performed through one long incision over the location of the hernia. In some cases, a piece of mesh is placed over the muscles in order to reinforce the weakened tissues.

At MedStar Health, our hernia specialists have extensive training in hernia repair. Our surgeons take a multidisciplinary approach to hernia care and are able to treat extremely complex hernias cases.


Open repair can be used to treat all types of hernias, including:

Why is open hernia repair performed?

A hernia develops from a weakness in the abdominal wall that compromises the integrity of the muscles and forms a gap. This weakness allows abdominal tissues, or sometimes the intestines, to protrude into this opening. If left untreated, hernias can cause serious health complications, such as infection and/or loss of blood to the intestine.

Each hernia diagnosis is unique. For certain types and severities of hernias, open hernia repair may be the most effective option. For example, larger and more complex hernias may require an open procedure in order to be able to reinforce the abdominal muscles more securely.

What to expect during an open hernia repair procedure

Open hernia repair can be performed under local, spinal, or general anesthesia. The type of anesthesia used depends on the patient’s health and, in some cases, the patient may elect the preferred anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon will make one incision of approximately one and one half to two inches long near the site of the hernia. The protruding tissues are then gently pushed back to their natural position.

An open hernia repair can most often be completed in less than two hours, depending on the size and complexity of the hernia. In some cases, a mesh patch may be placed over the gap in order to support the damaged muscles.

Risks associated with open hernia repair

Adults and children who undergo open hernia repair are at risk for the following complications:

Benefits of open hernia repair

Open hernia repair offers distinct benefits to patients. This technique allows surgeons to insert two pieces of mesh—one on each side of the hernia—to provide additional reinforcement to the weakened muscle. Unlike open hernia repair, minimally invasive surgery alternatives only allow for one piece of mesh to be inserted.

Open hernia repair can be performed under local or spinal anesthesia, as alternatives to general anesthesia. This means that patients who are at risk of certain complications associated with general anesthesia can still have hernia repair surgery.

Additionally, open hernia repair techniques are generally more economical than laparoscopic techniques. This is because laparoscopic technology is more expensive than the technology used for open hernia procedures.

How to prepare for open hernia repair

Pre-procedure instructions will be explained to patients by the surgeon. These instructions may vary depending on the type of anesthesia being used. For example, if the surgery will be performed using general anesthesia, patients may be advised to stop eating and drinking for a certain amount of time before the procedure.

Post open hernia repair surgery

Recovery from open hernia repair will vary from patient to patient, based on the health of the individual and the complexity of the surgery. Some individuals will experience pain and swelling in the area of the incision. It is normal to feel a bit of tugging and pulling in the area of the repair for up to one year after surgery.

Most patients can typically return to work within one week following the procedure and engage in daily activities within three weeks of surgery. However, patients should wait approximately six weeks before returning to strenuous activities. As with any surgery, it is important to communicate with the surgeon and schedule and attend all recommended follow-up visits.

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