An Uncommon Procedure: Read Katheryn's Story
Within a year of having surgery to repair a problem related to her diverticulitis, Groveville resident Katheryn’s life seemed to be back to normal.
And then she sneezed, and knew something wasn’t quite right.
Seeking the Right Surgeon
“I thought there might be a hernia because I could feel it,” Katheryn explains.
A hernia is when an organ protrudes through the cavity containing it. Though it doesn’t always cause pain, it will cause a bulge in the area of the hernia.
Katheryn’s surgeon confirmed she had a ventral, or incisional hernia. She was informed the hernia needed to be repaired, however it was so significant she would require an advanced surgery — available at some tertiary hospitals well outside of the region.
“I went to my primary care doctor for a referral and he recommended I talk to Dr. Vaswani,” she explains.
It turned out Vijay Vaswani, MD, board certified in general surgery, is one of only a handful of New Jersey surgeons with advanced training in the component separation technique for the repair of complex hernias.
And he was only a five-minute drive from Katheryn’s house.
A Hernia Explained
In the human body there are three layers of abdominal muscle: rectus abdominus, internal oblique and external oblique.
“If you can imagine your abdominal wall as three sliding doors that are positioned one on top of the other. With this type of hernia, the layers of the abdominal wall slide away from one another leaving an area of weakness where the internal organs begin to push on the abdominal wall,” explains Dr. Vaswani.
As time goes on, an untreated hernia will increase in size. For certain patients, a hernia can remain hidden for some time.
“Weight can play a major role in a complex hernia. Typically a patient who experiences this has a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or more,” Dr. Vaswani says.
For a patient who is morbidly obese, a hernia like this can go unnoticed and continue to grow in size. By the time the condition is diagnosed, the complexity of the hernia is beyond the scope of a standard hernia repair.
While the patient may not feel the hernia or even realize it is there, it can lead to serious complications like bowel obstruction and even strangulation of the intestines.
Advanced Surgery for Complex Hernia
In a smaller, more standard hernia repair, surgical mesh is used. For significant hernia, the mesh approach can often lead to recurrence.
“The component separation technique combines principles of both plastic and general surgeries to restore the abdominal wall contour to its natural form while fixing the hernia,” Dr. Vaswani explains.
“It essentially re-aligns the sliding doors. And it has a much lower recurrence rate for these patients,” he adds.
For Katheryn, it was a relief to have the repair — and so close to home.
“The hospital now has the ability to do this procedure when previously we couldn’t offer it. Patients with this type of hernia can now remain in their home areas for this procedure, rather than travel a distance to receive care. It’s very convenient and has put the patients we have seen much more at ease going into the surgery,” says Dr. Vaswani. “
These days, Katheryn is back to work and spending time with her family.
“I can definitely feel the difference. I knew it needed to be fixed. I was just thankful I could have it done here,” she says.