Am I Too Old for Hernia Surgery?
Age is always a factor in surgical intervention, and we are often asked if they are too old for hernia surgery. This conversation should be had with a qualified general surgeon like Drs. Huguet or Peterson. When it comes to aging and hernia surgery, there are two primary considerations as to whether a person of advanced age should have their hernia repaired.
Is the Patient Suitable for Surgical Intervention?
Patients with serious health concerns are susceptible to surgery complications not only because of the trauma to the body but also because anesthesia can be very hard on the heart and other vital organs. Before surgery, we will discuss the procedure’s risk and any considerations that may apply to your health situation. You may also need specific tests before you’re cleared for surgery. This may include heart, lung, and other organ function screenings.
Second, not every patient requires their hernia to be repaired. Typically, hernia repair is a no-brainer for younger symptomatic patients in relatively good health. Younger patients have a higher risk of incarceration or strangulation of the hernia contents, but their surgical risk is low. However, as we age, our musculature begins to weaken, resulting in a reduced risk of incarceration or strangulation, both of which are emergency concerns. If the hernia is relatively small, we often suggest that an older patient does not have it repaired until it becomes more of a problem. This is especially true if the hernia is not causing any pain or lifestyle impediment. Eventually, however, the hernia may grow, as all hernias are progressive, and surgery may be indicated later. During this time, we may be able to work with the patient to improve their health status, allowing them to cope better with the surgical procedure.
So, there you have it; there is no maximum age for hernia surgery. The minimally invasive nature of most of the surgical procedures we offer lends itself to fewer complications than open surgeries of old. However, we also must balance the benefits of the surgical procedure against the risks of surgery. If we feel that the risks are too great, or if the patient will not benefit from surgery, we suggest that older patients wait to have the hernia repaired.
With that said, this does not mean that elderly patients are not at risk of strangulation or incarceration. It can happen. As such, we instruct all our patients to look out for the telltale signs of an emergency, which may include the inability for the hernia contents to retract back into the abdomen when lying down, intense pain at the hernia site, redness, and fever, are also telltale signs of strangulation. Patients must get to the emergency room as soon as possible if these should occur. The hernia contents may lose blood flow, die, and cause a life-threatening situation if not handled immediately.
In the meantime, patients with a hernia are encouraged to visit our office for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan, regardless of age. We will talk to you about the various surgical options and discuss whether surgery is needed at all. Most importantly, knowledge is critical, and the guidance you will receive from this consultation is crucial to preventing any potential complications or understanding when surgery is necessary in the future.