Hernias: how to help avoid them and how to test for them at home

Written by: Mr Michael Stechman
Edited by: Conor Lynch

We recently spoke to esteemed Cardiff-based consultant general surgeon, Mr Michael Stechman, to quiz him in relation to the relationship between smoking and hernias and how patients can tell if they more than likely have a hernia present in their stomach.

Why is it so important to not smoke when it comes to preventing hernias?

Smoking, as we know, weakens the tissues in our abdominal wall, and overtime it obviously causes changes to our lungs, causing chronic cough. So, there is a double whammy if you like here, whereby the cough increases the pressure in the stomach and the smoking itself weakens the tissues of our abdominal wall, which means that hernias are much more likely to occur.


What are the main early signs of a hernia?

The main warning sign of a hernia is usually a swelling in the abdominal area.


What should patients do when they notice swelling in the abdominal zone?

If patients do notice a swelling, then it is very important that they get medical help, so a diagnosis can be made, in order for early treatment to take place. This will avoid the hernia becoming large and will avoid it starting to cause symptoms and possible dangerous complications.


Does lying down flat help, and when will patients know it is almost definitely a hernia?

Hernias will usually disappear when you lie down flat. So, if you’ve got a lump that is not there when you’re lying down in bed at night, but then it suddenly appears when you stand up, then for sure that is a hernia.


What are the main symptoms that patients with hernias complain of or present with?

A dragging sensation, discomfort when standing or lifting heavy objects are the two main symptoms that patients with hernias usually report.


What is the most effective imaging technique used to detect the seriousness of the hernia?

The most popular is an ultrasound scan, because that gives you a very good idea of the anatomy and also the size of the swelling and the size of the defect that the hernia is poking through.


What imaging technique is used for hiatus hernias?

In the case of hiatus hernias, a special endoscopy would be required to look for the hernia.


Mr Michael Stechman is an expert and highly trusted and experienced general surgeon when it comes to treating and diagnosing hernias. Consult with him today by visiting his Top Doctors profile.

By Mr Michael Stechman

Mr Michael Stechman is an experienced endocrine and general surgeon based in Cardiff. He currently sees patients at Spire Hospital Cardiff and performs keyhole surgery for groin and abdominal hernia and gallstones, as well as thyroid and parathyroid surgery.

His specialist interest is endocrine surgery (surgery of the thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands), which includes thyroid surgery for thyroid cancer and benign thyroid lumps, overactive thyroid disease, and parathyroid removal for high blood calcium. Please check with your GP in case they advise you to see an endocrinologist rather than an endocrine and thyroid surgeon.

He is also an experienced general surgeon including day case keyhole gallbladder and hernia surgery.

Mr Stechman undertook his higher surgical training in Oxford where he completed an MD with the Molecular Endocrinology group and a national Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) Fellowship in endocrine surgery. He has previously been the Quality and Safety Lead for General surgery on the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. In addition to his clinical work, he is also Director of Year five for the Medicine MBBCh course at Cardiff University Medical School, which allows him to train and assess medical students as they prepare to become junior doctors. He is the current honorary secretary of the British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons (BAETS), the national society that represents thyroid surgeons in the UK.

He has co-authored more than 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals and contributed to several chapters in surgical textbooks. Mr Stechman has also co-hosted a webinar series on endocrine surgery topics in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons and BAETS.

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