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Tuesday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Wednesday 16:30
Dr Mark Porter gives listeners the low-down on what the medical profession does and doesn't know. Each week an expert in the studio tackles a particular topic and there are reports from around the UK on the health of the nation - and the NHS.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 21 March
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DR MARK PORTER
Dr Mark Porter
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Tuesday 21 March 2006
A naked fat man
Hernia operations are common for men

Full programme transcript >>



Hernia

More than 100,000 hernia operations are carried out in the UK each year. It’s the most common procedure performed on men. Dr Mark Porter investigates how surgery has changed over the years, for hernias in both adults and babies.

So what is a hernia?
A hernia is a protrusion of part of the intestines through a weakness in the muscular wall of the abdomen. It can happen at any age.  Hernias in adults are mostly caused by wear-and-tear, but any activity that puts stress on the abdomen, such as heavy lifting, can produce a weakness or tear in the muscle wall.

Babies and hernia
Babies are routinely examined at birth and about 3 or 4% of male babies have what’s called an inguinal hernia. This happens when the tube through which the testes descend remains open, allowing other organs to move down it. This type of hernia requires surgery. Another kind, around the bellybutton, is known as an umbilical hernia. This affects around 1 in 25 children. Unless it causes pain, this hernia is normally left to close on its own. Paediatric surgeons like Dr Mark Woodward at the Bristol Children's hospital keep an eye on such children till they're about three years old and then discuss with the family whether surgery is desirable.

Surgery
A hernia can be repaired in an "open" way, which is the preferred method of Professor Andrew Kingsnorth, the President of the British Hernia Society. He makes an incision on the skin and locates the defect which he repairs. He then stitches into place a tough manmade mesh, to reinforce the repair.

Some surgeons like Tony Miles in Worthing also use laparoscopic or keyhole techniques to repair hernias. In this case, the mesh is placed on the inside of the abdominal wall. This type of operation is technically more difficult than the "open" type and it takes longer for a surgeon to become skilled at it.

Hernias can cause a small amount of discomfort and not appear to be much of a problem, but they are often operated on to avoid them becoming strangulated, or twisted. A strangulated hernia is painful and needs to be treated as an emergency.

Check Up - this week
NB: Check Up this week is also about hernias. Barbara Myers' guest is Tony Miles, a surgeon from Worthing hospital who uses both open and laparoscopic techniques to repair hernias.

Next week: Epilepsy

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