HOW IS A HERNIA DIAGNOSED?
A hernia is a gap in the layers of muscle and tissue that protect internal organs. This gap can allow organs to protrude outward, such as when the intestine bulges through a weakened area in the abdominal wall.
The most common hernias occur in the abdomen between your chest and hips, or in the upper thigh and groin areas, also called an inguinal hernia. In most cases, there is no obvious reason for a hernia to occur.
Hernias are more common as you age, and occur more frequently in men compared to women. They are often caused by a combination of muscle weakness and strain. The following activities and medical problems can lead to a hernia:
- A congenital condition present from birth.
- Damage from an injury or surgery.
- Chronic coughing or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
- Strenuous exercise or lifting heavy weights.
- Pregnancy, especially having multiple pregnancies.
- Constipation, which causes you to strain when having a bowel movement.
- Straining to urinate.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Fluid in the abdomen or ascites.
To treat a hernia, your doctor may recommend simply monitoring your condition, if there are no symptoms. If it doesn’t go away on its own, surgery may be required to prevent complications.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A HERNIA?
Generally, a hernia is a painless swelling that needs no immediate medical attention. It can, however, cause discomfort, such as mild pain, aching, or a pressure sensation at the site of the hernia. The discomfort worsens with any activity that puts a strain on the abdomen, such as standing, straining, or lifting heavy items.
There are some symptoms that require immediate medical attention, such as:
- If the swelling, or bulge, is firm and tender, and cannot be pushed back into the abdomen
- Worsening pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Racing heart rate
To diagnose a hernia your health care practitioner will often review your medical and family history, how long symptoms have been present, and how they affect daily activities. Medical imaging, such as an abdominal or inguinal ultrasound may also be requested.
HOW DO I GET A HERNIA ULTRASOUND?
Ultrasound helps health care practitioners make a diagnosis and inform care decisions. Once your doctor has identified the need for this exam, your doctor’s office may book an appointment for you, or provide you with a number to call to book your appointment. You will also be given a requisition form and preparation instructions for your exam.
For an abdominal ultrasound, you will be asked to fast and have nothing to eat or drink (except water) for six hours prior to your exam. This is not required for an inguinal ultrasound.
Once in the exam room you may be asked to change into a gown. You will then be positioned by one of our compassionate and experienced sonographers. A warm, unscented, hypo-allergenic ultrasound gel will be applied to your abdomen, and your sonographer will move the transducer around the front and side of your abdomen and ribcage to gather images of your organs. You may be asked to hold your breath and change position to help better examine the area of concern. You may experience mild to moderate pressure while the sonographer takes the images.
It generally takes between 20-30 minutes to complete an abdominal or an inguinal ultrasound exam.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER MY EXAM?
Your images will be reviewed by a specialized radiologist who will compile a report that is sent to your doctor within 24 hours, sooner for urgent requests. Mayfair Diagnostics is owned and operated by over 60 radiologists who are fellowship-trained in many keys areas, such as neuroradiology, body, cardiac, musculoskeletal imaging, etc. This allows for an expert review of your imaging by the applicably trained radiologist.
Your images will be uploaded to a provincial picture archiving and communication system (PACS) – this technology provides electronic storage and convenient access to your medical images from multiple sources, such as your doctor, specialists, hospitals, and walk-in clinics.
Your doctor will review your images and the report from the radiologist and discuss next steps with you, such as a treatment plan or the need for further diagnostic imaging or lab tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis.