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A common question that I get from people is: What is a hernia? A hernia really is just a hole that is in any wall that is supposed to be holding something in. You can have a hernia that occurs in your chest, in your head, in your abdominal cavity - sort of anywhere where you have a cavity. Specifically, when we're talking about the abdominal cavity, there are multiple places where you can develop a hernia. The most common places that you would see a hernia would be in the groin region, either on the right side or the left side or also in the belly button region or the umbilicus. Those are common areas because they are areas where people are actually born with these hernias. They are congenital defects. So if you think about it in terms of your belly button, we are born with an umbilical cord that travels through our abdominal wall and therefore we're naturally born with an umbilical hernia. Now, after you are born and the umbilical cord is cut, that hernia should close up and seal up so that you don't actually have a hernia later on in childhood or adulthood. In the groin, we have the same situation where during our development as a fetus, there are structures that pass through the abdominal wall in the groin and as they do that, they leave holes in the abdominal wall. These holes are supposed to close up as we continue to form as a fetus. Occasionally, they don't completely close and as a result, patients end up developing hernias that they see either in their childhood or later on in adulthood. Hernias can also occur at other locations of the abdominal wall where you may develop a weakness. Another common site for a hernia is from a prior incision. So in patients that have had either open or laparoscopic surgery, they could have had a large incision, they could have a really small incision - but those incisions (because they are slightly weaker than other parts of the abdominal wall) can actually open up and become hernias themselves.

Doctor Profile

Kai Nishi, MD, FACS

Bariatric Surgery

  • Board Certified bariatric surgeon in Trauma Services and Surgical Intensive Care at Cedars-Sinai
  • Formerly the Assistant Director of the Cedars-Sinai Center for Minimally Invasive and Weight Loss Surgery
  • One of the principal investigators of the FDA trials on a new procedure called TOGA (incision-less weight loss surgery), and is one of only a handful of surgeons in the U.S. who have performed this procedure

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