(See also Inguinal hernia in neonates Inguinal hernia in neonates Inguinal hernias develop most often in male neonates, particularly if they are premature (in which case the incidence is about 10%). The right side is affected most commonly, and about 10% of... read more .)
About 75% of all abdominal wall hernias Hernias of the Abdominal Wall A hernia of the abdominal wall is a protrusion of the abdominal contents through an acquired or congenital area of weakness or defect in the wall. Many hernias are asymptomatic, but some become... read more are inguinal.
Most patients complain only of a visible bulge, which may cause vague discomfort or be asymptomatic. Most hernias, even large ones, can be manually reduced with persistent gentle pressure; placing the patient in the Trendelenburg position may help.
An incarcerated hernia cannot be reduced and can be the cause of a bowel obstruction.
A strangulated hernia causes steady, gradually increasing pain, typically with nausea and vomiting. The hernia itself is tender, and the overlying skin may be erythematous; peritonitis may develop depending on location, with diffuse tenderness, guarding, and rebound.
The diagnosis of an inguinal hernia is clinical. Because the hernia may be apparent only when abdominal pressure is increased, the patient should be examined in a standing position. If no hernia is palpable, the patient should cough or perform a Valsalva maneuver as the examiner palpates the groin (with a finger in the inguinal canal in males).
Inguinal masses that resemble hernias may be the result of adenopathy (infectious or malignant), an ectopic testis, or lipoma. These masses are solid and are not reducible. A scrotal mass may be a varicocele Etiology A painless scrotal mass is often noticed by the patient but may be an incidental finding on routine physical examination. Scrotal pain and painful scrotal masses or swelling can be caused by... read more , hydrocele Etiology A painless scrotal mass is often noticed by the patient but may be an incidental finding on routine physical examination. Scrotal pain and painful scrotal masses or swelling can be caused by... read more , or testicular tumor Testicular Cancer Testicular cancer begins as a scrotal mass, which is usually not painful. Diagnosis is by ultrasonography. Treatment is with orchiectomy and sometimes lymph node dissection, radiation therapy... read more . Ultrasound may be done if physical examination is equivocal.
Inguinal hernias typically should be repaired electively because of the risk of strangulation, which results in higher morbidity (and possible mortality in older patients). Asymptomatic inguinal hernias in men can be observed; if symptoms develop, they can be repaired electively. Repair may be through a standard incision or laparoscopically.
An incarcerated or strangulated hernia of any kind requires urgent surgical repair.