You will be given a prescription for a pain medication. The narcotic (usually Vicoden) can be taken every four hours as needed. Your pain will be most severe the first three to five days following surgery, and then it should gradually subside. The intermittent use of an ice pack on the wound for the first 48 hours will help to reduce pain and prevent swelling. All the aches and pains associated with a hernia repair will take several weeks to months to fully resolve, but you should see a gradual improvement daily.
Your incision will be dressed with gauze and a clear, water-resistant dressing. You may shower over the dressing at any time. You may remove the dressing in 48 hours and shower over the incision then. Leave the small pieces of tape in place, and they will either fall off by themselves, or I will remove them in the office on follow-up. Avoid bathing or swimming for two weeks. It is normal to feel a firm ridge under your incision – this is called a healing ridge, and will resolve in several weeks. Once the Steri-Strips are removed, you may use Neosporin on the incision. If the wound looks slightly crusty, you may clean it daily with a Q-tip moistened in hydrogen peroxide mixed 1:1 with water.
If you had an inguinal hernia repaired, you may experience some bruising and swelling of your groin, which may extend to the genital region (penis and scrotum for men; labia for women). This is not uncommon, and will resolve in a few weeks.
If you had an incisional hernia repaired, you may be asked to wear an abdominal binder. The binder should be worn as often as possible, but can be removed when sleeping. It is best to protect the incision with gauze when the binder is in place for the first two weeks.
Your primary restriction following hernia surgery is to avoid lifting greater than 10 pounds and any form of activity that puts strain on your abdominal muscles for four weeks. You should take it easy the first day of surgery, and stay primarily homebound with activity limited primarily to stairs and bathroom privileges. As your pain dissipates, you may resume regular activities of daily living as tolerated. As you increase your activity, your discomfort will undoubtedly increase, but this is not harmful. Simply use common sense. Walking will be the best form of exercise. You may begin driving after 48 hours or when you are no longer taking a narcotic for pain control, whichever occurs later. You can return to work when your pain level dictates, except if your job requires heavy lifting. Typically, patients stay off of work for an average of two weeks, but this is variable.
No restrictions. Because you may become constipated after surgery, it is best to include fiber (eg. bran, grains, vegetables) in your diet and plenty of water. In addition, you should take the stool softener prescribed to you until your bowel function normalizes. If you do not have a bowel movement in 48 hours, you may take one to two ounces of milk of magnesia.
You should make an appointment for your follow-up visit in two weeks.