What Are the Symptoms of an Incisional Hernia?

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  • Written By: C. Webb
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2019
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An incisional hernia is a tear in the muscle along scar tissue, usually in the abdomen. Typically, the scar tissue remains from a prior surgical incision. The most common symptoms of an incisional hernia are physical discomfort and bulging. Symptoms do not usually appear first thing in the morning. Instead, they become noticeable after long periods of sitting, standing, or lifting throughout the day.

Pain is the most common complaint from incisional hernia patients. They report feeling burning, sharp, and aching pain. Each pain type can be felt alone or in combination with the others. The pain is sometimes alleviated by stopping physical activities and lying down.

Pressure is also a common complaint of hernia patients. Patients report that they feel fullness or a pressure at the site of the hernia. Sometimes it is described as feeling as if something is there that was not there before.

Bulging is a frequent incisional hernia symptom. The bulge's presence can be constant or intermittent. Patients report getting the bulge to go away when they lie down. Applying steady, gentle pressure to the bulge often causes the tissue to move back into the abdomen.


When symptoms of an incisional hernia include relentless discomfort, accompanied by the bulge getting stuck and unable to be tucked back into the abdomen, early surgical intervention is warranted. This condition becomes quite painful, requiring medical care. Ignoring this symptom can lead to a bowel obstruction, which can be life threatening. Bowel obstructions cause distention of the stomach, high pain levels, and vomiting. Patients who experience such symptoms should seek immediate medical care.

Strangulation is the most serious problem with symptoms of an incisional hernia. During strangulation, the tissue is caught in a narrow part of the hernia wall and cannot escape. Risks of hernia strangulation include tissue death and gangrene. Ultimately, it can be life threatening. Treatment for a strangulated hernia is emergency surgery.

Less frequent symptoms of an incisional hernia include constipation, fever, and nausea. These symptoms are also caused by other medical conditions. A medical evaluation should be sought for symptoms of an incisional hernia.


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