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Femoral Hernia

Introduction

A femoral hernia is a mass of intra-abdominal tissue that protrudes through weak muscles in the femoral canal.

The femoral canal contains the femoral artery and a combination of nerves and veins. The femoral hernia presents as a bulge varying in size near the groin or inner thigh.

Causes

Femoral hernias are a relatively rare form of a hernia, and exact causes are difficult to determine. More common in women, some females are merely born with a weaker femoral canal, or continuous pressure weakens it over time.

A femoral hernia may be caused by straining induced by coughing, lifting weights, childbirth, or severe and ongoing constipation.

Symptoms

Small femoral hernias may not present any symptoms and may go unnoticed by the patient.

Larger hernias may cause pain or discomfort localised to the groin area.

The patient may also experience pain and discomfort that intensifies with heavy lifting or movement. Because of their proximity to the hip, a large femoral hernia may also result in hip pain.

In severe cases, a femoral hernia may lead to a strangulated hernia, a condition which severely restricts blood flow to the intestines. This is a life-threatening medical issue and requires immediate attention.

If you experience severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting or acute pain in the groin area and you suspect a femoral hernia, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Diagnosis

A femoral hernia can be identified visually if a cyst-like bulge is present in the groin area. If there are no apparent symptoms but a femoral hernia is suspected, an ultrasound will identify the condition or any defects in the femoral canal that may potentially lead to a hernia.

Treatment

If a femoral hernia causes no pain or inconvenience, treatment isn't necessary although your GP will continue to monitor the hernia.  If symptoms progress or cause persistent pain or discomfort, surgery will be required.

Surgery takes place laparoscopically under a general anaesthetic. Keyhole surgery is a more precise procedure reducing scarring and improving recovery time.

Three to four incisions are made in the groin area, and the protruding tissues will be manoeuvred back into place before the wall of the femoral canal is strengthened with mesh.

Prognosis

Treatment of femoral hernias is a simple procedure and rarely leads to complications. Full recovery after surgery takes between two and six weeks with few patients having a recurring incidence.

Strangulation of the hernia is a life-threatening condition where the blood supply is cut off to the intestines and abdomen. A strangulated hernia requires emergency surgery. The surgeon will put the tissue back into place effectively reducing the hernia and releasing blood flow before removing any dead tissue.  In the event of a strangulated hernia, recovery may take longer.