You had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia caused by a weakness in the abdominal wall in your groin area. You probably had general or spinal anesthesia (asleep, pain-free). You may have had a small hernia that was repaired while you were given local anesthesia (awake but pain-free).
Your nurse will give you pain medicine and help you begin to move around. Rest and gentle movement are important for recovery.
You may go home the same day as your surgery, or you may spend 1 to 2 days in the hospital. It will depend on the procedure you had.
What to Expect at Home
After your, or your child's, hernia repair:
You will probably have stitches and special bandages on your incision.
You may have some pain, soreness, and stiffness at first, especially when you move. This is normal.
You will also feel tired after surgery.
You will most likely return to your normal activities in just a few weeks.
Men may have swelling and pain in their testicles.
You may have some bruising around the groin and testicular area.
You may have trouble passing urine for the first few days.
Make sure you get plenty of rest when you get home for the first 2 or 3 days. Ask family and friends for help with daily activities while your movements are limited.
Managing Your Pain
Take all of your pain medicines as your doctor or nurse told you to take them. You may be given a prescription for a narcotic pain medicine, or your doctor may suggest over-the-counter pain medicine (ibuprofen, Tylenol) for the first 2 weeks after surgery.
You may apply a cold compress to the incision area for 20 minutes at a time for pain for the first few days. Wrap the compress or ice in a towel. Do not apply either directly to your skin.
Take good care of your incision and dressings.
You will need to keep your incision covered with bandages for the first 2 to 3 days.
A little bleeding and drainage is normal until the stitches are taken out or they dissolve. Apply antibiotic ointment (bacitracin, polysporin) or another solution to the incision area if your doctor or nurse told you to.
You may wash the area with mild soap and water after your stitches are gone. Gently pat it dry. Do not take a bath, soak in a hot tub, or go swimming for the first week after surgery.
You may also be taking antibiotics to prevent infection. Make sure you finish the medicine as your doctor told you to.
Your Diet During Recovery
Pain medicines can cause constipation, so make sure you are eating some high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of water (8 to 10 glasses a day). Antibiotics can cause diarrhea. If this happens, try eating yogurt with live cultures or taking psylium (Metamucil).
Give yourself some time to heal. For about a week, avoid strenuous activities, heavy lifting, jogging, or swimming. You may gradually resume normal activities, such as walking, driving, and sexual activity, when you are ready. Do NOT drive if you are taking narcotic medications.
Do not lift anything over 10 pounds (about a gallon jug of milk) for 4 to 6 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay. Older boys and men may want to wear an athletic supporter if they have swelling or pain in their testicles.
Check with your doctor before returning to sports or other high-impact activities. Protect your incision area from the sun for 1 year to prevent noticeable scarring.
Schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor as directed. Usually this visit is about 2 weeks after surgery.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if you have:
Severe pain or soreness
A lot of bleeding from your incision
Light headedness that doesn’t go away after a few days
Chills, or fever over 101 °F
Pus, redness, warmth, or redness at the incision site
Swelling or pain in the testicles that is getting worse
Malangoni MA, Rosen MJ. Hernias. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 44.
Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in General Surgery, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.