New Creighton Research Indicates Watchful Waiting for Inguinal Hernias in Men
Article Published in Journal of the American Medical Association
The most common treatment for inguinal hernias, a condition in which part of the intestine bulges through a weak area in the abdomen, has been surgery to repair the herniated area. Approximately 700,000 hernia surgeries are performed in the United States each year.
Research published in the Jan. 18 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) now indicates that “watchful waiting” is a safe and acceptable option for patients whose hernias are not causing discomfort.
According to Robert J. Fitzgibbons Jr., MD'74, FACS, chief of general surgery at Creighton University Medical Center and the lead author and principal investigator of the research, surgeons are traditionally taught that all hernias should be repaired at diagnosis.
“This is a landmark study because we have never before clinically studied the risk-to-benefit ratio of surgery versus waiting,” said Dr. Fitzgibbons, the Harry E. Stuckenhoff endowed professor of surgery at Creighton University School of Medicine. “It tells us that we don’t need to rush to surgery for these types of hernias.”
He added: “Inguinal hernia surgery can be painful. If we can help patients avoid or delay this procedure, it benefits everyone.”
The study concludes that for men who have minimal symptoms, surgery can safely be delayed until symptoms increase. Watchful waiting involves periodic exams by the surgeon, careful observation by the patient and patient education so they can identify signs of developing problems.