For years, Greg Bauer of Darien loved playing tennis
on Saturdays. This hard-working 49-year-old
always looked forward to meeting up with friends
on the court. That is, until a few months ago, when an
agonizing hernia brought his game to a screeching halt.
"It became impossible to move anywhere on the
court. Every sudden movement caused a sharp pain,"
His hernia didn't hurt when he did everyday things
around the house. While sitting at his desk or standing in
his kitchen, he didn’t notice it. But quick movements and
jogging were excruciating.
Greg's primary care physician diagnosed the soreness in
Greg’s right groin (the area between the abdomen and
thigh) as an inguinal hernia. An inguinal hernia happens
when part of a person’s intestine protrudes (sticks out under the skin) through a weakness or tear in muscle in the lower
abdominal wall. Inguinal hernias account for 80 percent
of all hernias, and are more common in men.
An inguinal hernia can occur for a number of reasons: wear
and tear over the years, or a weakness in the abdominal
wall that is present at birth. Moving suddenly, coughing,
lifting something heavy or bending over can cause pain
that ranges from a dull ache to a sharp pinch.
Out of the millions of people in the United States who
have hernias, it’s estimated that only a fraction of them
However, there can be serious risks to delaying hernia
repair, says general surgeon Sean Duerr, MD, who repairs
hernias regularly as part of his practice. Part of the intestine
can become trapped (incarcerated), and stool may not
be able to pass through. This can cause additional pain, as well as nausea, vomiting and abdominal swelling.
Another possible complication is that a loop of intestine
can swell and become
tightly trapped (strangulated)
in the hernia,
which causes the tissue
to die (gangrene). If the
intestine becomes strangulated,
Because Greg was in pain,
he didn’t want to waste
any more time off the
court or risk developing
further problems. He
wanted to get back to his
regular routine. At his
primary care physician’s
recommendation, he went
to see general surgeon
Andrew Kenler, MD.
"Surgery is the only treatment
option to permanently
fix a hernia," says
Dr. Kenler, who repairs
more than 150 hernias
laparoscopically each year.
"Some people worry about having surgery, but advances
in surgical techniques—such as laparoscopic surgery—
make it easier on the patient."
Laparoscopic hernia repair is an alternative to traditional
open surgery. Patients who choose laparoscopic surgery usually
recover faster (one to two weeks versus four weeks with
traditional open surgery for hernia repair), and have less postoperative
pain, a shorter hospital stay and a smaller scar.
"Laparoscopic hernia repair is the preferred method for
people who need to return to work or activities quickly," says
Dr. Kenler. "Most people are able to go home the same day."
Greg went in for surgery at Bridgeport Hospital on a
Friday morning last spring. After Greg fell asleep (under
general anesthesia), Dr.
Kenler made three small
incisions (cuts) that measured
between five and 10
than the length of a sunflower
seed! A tiny camera,
called a laparoscope,
was gently placed into the
incision. The camera sent
images from within Greg’s
body to a video monitor,
allowing Dr. Kenler to see
the operative area enlarged
on the screen. Through
the other incisions, he
used special surgical
instruments that resemble
chopsticks to repair Greg’s
hernia. Dr. Kenler then
closed the tiny incisions
with special surgical glue.
The surgery took about
a half-hour to complete,
followed by a couple of
hours of recovery. "I was
back working at my desk the next day," says Greg.
"The small incisions healed quickly. I have movement
and flexibility back. Best of all, I am pain-free on my
stationary bike. I'm already jogging again, and I look
forward to getting back on the tennis court!"