We are frequently asked "what happens if I do not take care of my hernia?" The question is important enough to require a thorough explanation.
The first thing to understand about an untreated hernia is that the only effective treatment is surgery. No other form of treatment will prevent the consequences of not having surgery. Other treatments such as diet, exercise, trusses, belts, briefs, medications and vitamins are of little use.
Over time all hernias get bigger, never smaller. If left untreated hernias may reach huge proportions and may essentially contain all of the intestines and abdominal organs leaving the abdominal cavity empty and collapsed. Once this happens the situation is irreversible and the hernia cannot be fixed. Should an attempt be made to repair such a hernia and replace the organs and intestines into the abdominal cavity the result is usually lung failure. This occurs when the increased pressure within the abdominal cavity pushes the diaphragm up resulting in collapse of the lungs.
Small hernias are easier to repair than large hernias. The surgery is quicker, less complicated and the recovery is easier and faster. The long term results are better with smaller hernias; larger hernias have a higher recurrence rate.
Any hernia, large or small can become strangulated. In this situation a portion the intestine which is trapped within the hernia is strangled and its blood supply is cut off. Losing its blood supply the intestine becomes gangrenous and then ruptures. Ruptured intestine is as bad or worse as a ruptured appendix and requires emergency surgery. The symptoms are severe abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting. Any hernia patient with these symptoms should go straight to the nearest emergency room.
The purpose of repairing a hernia is to avoid these serious complications. In the vast majority of patients hernia repair surgery can b preformed safely and with excellent long term results. With rare exception we never tell a patient not to get their hernia fixed.