What Is Ventral Hernia?

Discover the hidden threat within unravelling the mysteries of Ventral Hernia – a silent intruder in your abdomen. Learn what it is, how to spot it, and the keys to a strong, hernia-free life in our eye-opening exploration of this common, yet often misunderstood, medical condition.


The abdomen serves as a defensive structure, protecting important organs and preserving its structural stability in the complex landscape of human anatomy. Even so, chinks can appear in the strongest defence, creating weaknesses that endanger our safety. 

The ventral hernia is one such vulnerability; it is a disorder that can creep up on us, lurking just below the surface of our skin. A sizable section of the population is susceptible to ventral hernias, which are frequent occurrences. They occur when abdominal organs or tissue push through a weak spot in the abdominal wall, frequently resulting in a lump or bulge that can be easily visible. 

Although usually not fatal, ventral hernias can be painful, uncomfortable, and, if untreated, result in complications that necessitate emergency medical attention.1 In recent years, there has been an increase in the occurrence of ventral hernias, which can be attributed in part to causes including rising obesity rates, abdominal procedures, and ageing populations. Ventral hernias are complex conditions, and it is essential for both those at risk and the medical community to comprehend them and their causes, symptoms, and available treatments. 

In this extensive guide, we set out to clarify the myths surrounding ventral hernia. We'll delve into the complex structure of the abdominal wall, look at the various forms of ventral hernias that might happen, and analyse the symptoms and indicators that could indicate their presence. Additionally, we will go through the diagnostic techniques used by medical specialists to confirm ventral hernias and the possible treatment options to address them successfully. 

This article aims to provide you with a thorough overview of ventral hernias, regardless of whether you're a healthcare professional trying to broaden your knowledge, a patient inquiring about a recent diagnosis, or worried about risk factors. We'll unlock the riddles of this illness together, arming you with the knowledge you need to forge ahead towards a healthier future.2

Anatomy and causes of ventral hernia

An abdominal wall condition known as a ventral hernia is characterised by the protrusion of abdominal tissue or organs via a weak or damaged location. It's crucial to comprehend the anatomy of the abdominal wall and the numerous origins of ventral hernias to identify the underlying reasons for this widespread medical disease. The abdominal wall is a strong structure that performs a variety of tasks, including defending essential organs, regulating abdominal pressure, and assisting with movement. It is made up of multiple layers, each of which is essential to how it works overall.

  • Skin - The outermost layer that protects and enhances perception.
  • Subcutaneous Fat - This layer serves as an insulator and energy reserve beneath the skin.
  • Muscles - Stability and support for the abdominal wall are provided by the abdominal muscles, which include the rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, and transversus abdominis.
  • Fascia - Connective tissue that envelops and divides the muscles.
  • Peritoneum - The serous membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and encloses the internal organs is the innermost layer.3

Ventral hernias can arise from several causes, including:

  • Surgery - Previous abdominal operations, particularly those requiring incisions (such as appendectomies, C-sections, or laparotomies), might deteriorate the abdominal wall. Points of weakness that make people more susceptible to hernias might be caused by scar tissue or improper wound healing.
  • Obesity - An increase in intra-abdominal pressure brought on by excess body weight and abdominal fat can strain the abdominal wall. Hernias may occur because of this additional pressure.
  • Pregnancy - During pregnancy, the abdominal wall extends considerably to provide room for the developing foetus. Because of the weakening of the muscles and fascia caused by this straining, pregnant women are more prone to ventral hernias, especially umbilical hernias.
  • Trauma - Tears or structural disruptions in the abdominal wall can result from injuries or blunt force trauma, which can lead to the development of hernias.
  • Chronic Straining - Repeated heavy lifting, persistent coughing, or straining while urinating might put too much pressure on the abdominal wall. This strain has the potential to cause hernias in the long run.
  • Congenital Weakness- Due to a congenital weakness in their abdominal wall, certain people may be predisposed to ventral hernias from birth, making them more likely to develop one later in life.4

Types of ventral hernia

There are various ventral hernia kinds, and each is distinguished by its site and underlying causes:

  • Incisional hernia - The most frequent type of hernia usually develops where a prior surgical incision is made. The abdominal wall becomes weakened by the scar tissue, allowing tissues to protrude.
  • Epigastric Hernia - Due to an innate weakness in the abdominal muscles, these hernias form in the upper abdomen, between the breastbone and the navel.
  • Umbilical hernias - It is common in infants but can also happen to adults. They form when the abdominal wall either weakens over time or doesn't shut properly during development.5
  • Spigelian hernia - These are uncommon and frequently occur in the lower abdomen around the margin of the rectus abdominis muscle. Due to their placement, they may be more challenging to diagnose.
  • Paraumbilical hernia - These hernias, which are like umbilical hernias in appearance and location near the navel, are frequently linked to obesity or pregnancy.
  • Suprapubic Hernia - This form develops immediately above the pubic bone and may result from past surgical incisions or a weak abdominal wall.
  • Richter's Hernia - This hernia only causes one side of the intestine to become caught, frequently resulting in bowel strangulation.
  • Incarcerated Hernia - A hernia is deemed incarcerated if it cannot be moved back into position. A strangulated hernia, which is a surgical emergency, develops if blood flow to the trapped tissue is impeded.6 

Signs and symptoms

The following are typical ventral hernia symptoms:

  • Visible Bulge - The most obvious symptom is a lump or bulge in the abdomen wall that is evident and may get worse when you cough or strain. The protrusion of organs or tissues through the weak abdominal muscles is represented by this bulge.
  • Pain or Discomfort - Many people who have ventral hernias have localised pain or discomfort close to the hernia site. The intensity of this pain can vary from minor to severe, and physical exertion, heavy lifting, or straining might make it worse.7
  • Pressure or Fullness - At the hernia site, some people report feeling pressure, fullness, or heaviness. This feeling may come on continuously or sporadically.
  • Digestive Symptoms - If the hernia affects the digestive system, symptoms including nausea, vomiting, heartburn, or changes in bowel habits may appear. If the hernia traps or obstructs a section of the intestine, these symptoms may become more severe.
  • Redness or Skin Changes - The underlying skin may turn red, sensitive, or discoloured if the hernia becomes imprisoned or strangulated. This may suggest limited blood flow to the confined tissue, which is a medical emergency.8

Diagnosis of ventral hernia

A ventral hernia is diagnosed in the following ways:

  • Medical History - The patient's symptoms and medical background are discussed as the first stage in the diagnosing process. The medical professional will inquire about any prior abdominal surgery or hernia risk factors.
  • Physical examination - The doctor will look at and palpate (feel) your abdomen during the physical examination. They will search for any obvious protrusions or bulges, measure them, determine where they are, and determine whether there is any pain or tenderness around them.
  • Cough Test- While the medical professional examines the hernia, the patient might be requested to cough. Coughing can raise the pressure inside the abdomen, highlighting the hernia.
  • Imaging investigations- Imaging investigations like ultrasonography, CT scans, or MRI scans may be required in some circumstances, particularly if the diagnosis is murky or if problems are suspected. The hernia and its surroundings can be seen in great clarity on these imaging tests' images.9

Treatment of ventral hernia

The treatment of a ventral hernia typically involves surgical repair. Here is a brief synopsis:

  • Surgical Repair - Surgery is usually necessary to repair ventral hernias because they cause the abdominal wall to weaken and protrude. The technique entails repositioning the herniated tissue and sealing the abdominal wall defect with stitches or mesh.
  • Laparoscopic Method - Depending on the size, location, and general health of the patient, surgeons may choose to undertake open surgery or minimally invasive laparoscopic methods to repair ventral hernias.10
  • Mesh Implant - A mesh implant is frequently utilised to offer additional support to the area that has been treated, lowering the chance of hernia recurrence.
  • Hernia Support Apparel - In some circumstances, wearing a hernia support belt or truss might assist in providing temporary relief by gently providing pressure to the hernia and easing pain. This, however, does not address the underlying problem and is not a long-term fix.11

Prevention and prognosis of ventral hernia


Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding hard lifting, using good lifting techniques, and controlling chronic illnesses like obesity or constipation all contribute to lowering the incidence of ventral hernias. Incisional hernia risk can be reduced by properly closing surgical incisions.


Ventral hernias typically have a good prognosis with prompt surgical correction. If left unchecked, complications might have detrimental effects. Recurrence rates vary. However, they can be reduced by using the right surgical method and aftercare. A good prognosis depends on early diagnosis and treatment.12


Ventral hernias, to sum up, are frequently seen as protrusions of organs or tissues through weak abdominal walls. When necessary, early detection by physical examination and imaging is crucial. While some minor hernias can be treated without surgery, surgery is frequently necessary to stop complications and treat symptoms. Laparoscopic surgery is one example of a minimally invasive procedure that offers faster recovery times. With prompt treatment, the prognosis is often good, though recurrence is possible. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and caring for wounds after abdominal procedures are important aspects of prevention. Effective management of ventral hernias and better patient outcomes depend on being aware of risk factors, acting quickly, and providing postoperative care.


  1. Smith J, Parmely JD. Ventral hernia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 29]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499927/
  2. Novitsky YW, Cobb WS, Kercher KW, Matthews BD, Sing RF, Heniford BT. Laparoscopic ventral hernia repair in obese patients: a new standard of care. Archives of Surgery [Internet]. 2006 Jan 1 [cited 2023 Sep 29];141(1):57–61. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1001/archsurg.141.1.57
  3. Smith J, Parmely JD. Ventral hernia. StatPearls [Internet] [Internet]. 2021 Aug 11; Available from: https://scholarlyworks.beaumont.org/surgery_articles/42
  4. Cherla DV, Poulose B, Prabhu AS. Epidemiology and disparities in care. Surgical Clinics of North America [Internet]. 2018 Jun [cited 2023 Sep 29];98(3):431–40. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0039610918300239
  5. Zavlin D, Jubbal KT, Van Eps JL, Bass BL, Ellsworth WA, Echo A, et al. Safety of open ventral hernia repair in high-risk patients with metabolic syndrome: a multi-institutional analysis of 39,118 cases. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases [Internet]. 2018 Feb [cited 2023 Sep 29];14(2):206–13. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1550728917309474
  6. Owei L, Swendiman RA, Kelz RR, Dempsey DT, Dumon KR. Impact of body mass index on open ventral hernia repair: A retrospective review. Surgery [Internet]. 2017 Dec [cited 2023 Sep 29];162(6):1320–9. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0039606017305019
  7. Peterman DE, Warren JA. Ventral hernia management in obese patients. Surgical Clinics of North America [Internet]. 2021 Apr [cited 2023 Sep 29];101(2):307–21. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S003961092030164X 
  8. Deeken CR, Lake SP. Mechanical properties of the abdominal wall and biomaterials utilized for hernia repair. J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2017 Oct;74:411–27. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28692907/
  9. Vilallonga R, Beisani M, Sanchez-Cordero S, Garcia Ruiz De Gordejuela A, Rodríguez-Luna MR, Fort JM, et al. Abdominal wall hernia and metabolic bariatric surgery. Journal of Laparoendoscopic & Advanced Surgical Techniques [Internet]. 2020 Aug 1 [cited 2023 Sep 29];30(8):891–5. Available from: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/lap.2020.0257
  10. Heniford BT. SAGES guidelines for laparoscopic ventral hernia repair. Surg Endosc [Internet]. 2016 Aug [cited 2023 Sep 29];30(8):3161–2. Available from: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s00464-016-5073-9
  11. Holihan JL, Alawadi ZM, Harris JW, Harvin J, Shah SK, Goodenough CJ, et al. Ventral hernia: Patient selection, treatment, and management. Current Problems in Surgery [Internet]. 2016 Jul [cited 2023 Sep 29];53(7):307–54. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0011384016300156
  12. Le Huu Nho R, Mege D, Ouaïssi M, Sielezneff I, Sastre B. Incidence and prevention of ventral incisional hernia. Journal of Visceral Surgery [Internet]. 2012 Oct [cited 2023 Sep 29];149(5):e3–14. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1878788612000604
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Aleena Rajan

Master Of Public Health (MPH) -University of Wolverhampton

Dr Aleena is an Ayurvedic Physician with extensive experience in hospital and clinical settings. She holds Indian licenses and board certification in Ayurvedic Medicine. She has worked as a consultant doctor for 3 years and also as Medical Officer for 2 years. She has dedicated her career to providing comprehensive medical care and improving the well-being of her patients. Currently, she is pursuing her postgraduation in public health.

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