Glossary

Abdomen – the space or cavity in which contains your intestines, stomach liver,etc.  It is like a large room with four walls, a ceiling and a floor. When you are standing the front wall is called the abdominal wall. It stops your intestines etc. falling on the floor

Abdominal wall– The muscles that form the front wall of your abdominal cavity. A hole in your abdominal wall will result in a hernia

Anaesthesia  – Loss of feeling or sensation [American spelling – anesthesia]

A local anesthetic causes loss of feeling in only in one part of the body, such as a tooth or an area of skin or deeper tissue. It does not affect consciousness. Don’t confuse with regional anesthesia, like an epidural or spinal anaesthesia.

Regional anaesthesia numbs a larger part of the body such as a leg or arm, also without affecting consciousness.

Bilateral hernia – two groin hernias existing at the same time, one on each side.

Bioabsorbable – A material that is designed to be absorbed by the body within a given period of time.

Biomaterial – Material that can be used in the human body, often as part of a medical device.

Bowel – Another name for the intestine or guts. The small bowel and the large bowel are the small intestine and large intestine respectively.

Congenital – A condition that is present at birth. Not to be confused with inherited.

Direct inguinal hernia – Direct and indirect are probably not helpful nowadays, except possibly to trainee surgeons. They are anatomical terms describing which side of a blood vessel in the inguinal canal the hernia comes out. Whichever ‘type’, the method of repair is the same.

Diaphragm – A large flat sheet of muscle that separates your chest (which contains lungs and heart) from your abdomen or abdominal cavity, which contains your guts. There are holes in the diaphragm to allow blood vessels and the gullet (swallowing tube or oesophagus) to pass through from one to the other.

Epigastric hernia – A hernia that occurs in the upper part of the abdomen (the epigastrium), between the lower end of sternum (breastbone )and the umbilicus (navel).  They always occur in the midline.

Femoral canal – A narrow canal that lies next to the large femoral blood vessels that pass from the abdomen into the leg, at the level of the groin skin crease.

Femoral hernia – A hernia through the femoral canal. Because the canal is narrow and three of its side are rigid, strangulation is relatively common. See ‘strangulated hernia’

Groin – the area where the upper thigh meets the trunk or torso. It is marked by a skin crease at the top of the thigh.

Hernia – A weakness or hole in the wall of a cavity containing an organ, with the resulting protrusion of that organ or part of the organ though it.

Hiatus hernia – (A ‘hiatus’ is an opening) A hiatus hernia is when the stomach ‘herniates’ through an opening in the diaphragm. The opening is to allow the oesophagus (gullet or swallowing tube) to get from your mouth to stomach. Sometimes the opening enlarges and the stomach passes upwards, through this opening into the chest.

Incarcerated – an incarcerated hernia is one where the hernia contents (usually intestine) have come through the hernia defect and cannot go back or reduce. They are irreducible.

Inherited –  Passed down in your genes, from one (or both) of your parents, grandparents etc.

Irreducible hernia – see incarcerated

Incisional hernia – A hernia that occurs at the site of a previous surgical incision.

Inguinal canal– A naturally occurring “tunnel” in the groin area, through which the testicle descends from the abdomen into the scrotum around the time of birth in males.  Women also have an inguinal canal, but it is much smaller.

Inguinal hernia – A hernia through the inguinal canal.

Laparoscopic surgery – also known as keyhole surgery. Uses an instrument called a laparoscope to look inside the abdominal cavity. Small incisions are made in the skin and through the abdominal wall to allow access for additional instruments.

Recurrent hernia – A hernia that occurs at the same location as a previous hernia.

Reducible hernia – A hernia in which the hernia contents go back into the abdomen when one lies down or pushes them back.

Strangulation – A situation in which a loop of intestine has become trapped in the hernia, constricted at the neck or entrance to the hernia, and hence loses its blood supply. If not dealt with the trapped intestine will lose its blood supply and die.

Umbilical hernia – A hernia that occurs through the umbilicus itself.

Ventral hernia – Hernia that occurs in the abdominal wall, but not the groin area. A very ambiguous and unhelpful term. Don’t use it.