What is a strangulated hernia?

As we already know, a hernia is an outpouching of intestinal viscera or tissue through a gap or defect in the muscles that usually restrain them. However, sometimes, the muscular edges of the gap through which the bulge occurs can clamp down and cut off the hernia from the rest of its body.

In this situation, not only is the hernia stuck outside its normal position without being able to be pushed back, but also starts to lose blood supply and continuity with the rest of the body. This is called strangulation and can be compared to tying a finger off tightly with a rubber-band.

The sectioned-off part becomes quite painful as it starts dying from the lack of oxygen and build-up of toxins. As the bowels also contain digested food matter, the strangulated hernia can also experience the toxic effects of decaying organic matter that could not complete the digestion process. All this contributes to serious effects on the rest of the body, and can eventually lead to a dangerous condition called shock, where the body is unable to function as it is supposed to.

How to recognize symptoms of hernia strangulation?

Strangulated hernias are a very serious matter and should be prevented preemptively. This is why most surgeons seek to fix hernias if there is even the slightest risk of strangulation. Nevertheless, a good awareness of your own body can help in recognizing strangulation and seeking early help. Often, strangulated hernias occur in those hernias that have already been noted frequently. If you have a hernia that occasionally comes and goes, and have been recently seeing it come a lot more often, seek treatment for it, as it might help prevent strangulation from ever taking place.

Most importantly, if you notice sudden sharp/severe pain, redness, and warmth over a hernia, consider the possibility of strangulation and seek medical care immediately. These symptoms of a strangulated hernia can be accompanied by vomiting, bloody stools, constipation, fever, and tiredness as well.

What can be done to treat a strangulated hernia?

Strangulated hernias are EMERGENCIES. That means there is no waiting around after a strangulated hernia has been found, they have to be operated on ASAP. The main focus should be on reducing the hernia, i.e, putting it back where it belongs. This should be done before any permanent bowel damage from the obstruction takes place, which is why early intervention is best. If the tissue has started dying, then that portion is no longer viable and has to be sectioned off and removed. The two remaining ends of the bowel will be joined together to maintain the continuity of the bowel. The hernia defect should also be corrected during this surgery or as soon after, depending on the general condition of the patient.

In order to avoid strangulation, the BEST method is to get even asymptomatic hernias regularly looked at or get them repaired. Hernias are not conditions that can spontaneously heal themselves and always will require eventual medical/surgical treatment.