What are the risks of surgery?

Problems after straightforward groin hernia repair are very rare but you do need to know a little about the kind of things that that can occur.

Short-term problems

  • Bleeding – can occur after any skin cut
  • Infection – can occur after any skin cut
  • Seroma – a collection of clear fluid that sometimes occurs after surgery
  • Damage to the surrounding structures – the blood supply to the testicle (on the side of the hernia repair) can be damaged (this is very rare in first time hernia repair). Other abdominal structures can be damaged in keyhole surgery (also very rare).
  • Haematoma – this is a bruise that can occur in the groin or the scrotum and can be quite dramatic. Whilst a small amount of bruising is normal, a large bruise causing swelling of the scrotum is rare.
  • Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism – blood clot in the legs, which may then travel to the lungs can be a problem after any operation. The risk after hernia repair is very low. If you are an ‘at risk’ individual, you will be given special graded compression stockings and possibly blood thinning injections to reduce the risk even further.

Medium and long-term problems

  • Recurrence – the hernia comes back – about a 1 in 200 risk
  • Long-term discomfort or pain – this is rare but can occur in up to 5% (1 in 20) groin hernia repairs. By long-term pain we mean pain lasting for more than three months after the operation. We don’t know exactly what causes long-term discomfort but one theory is that it is due to inadvertent nerve damage during the operation. The likelihood appears to be higher in patients who have small hernias and whose predominant symptom before the operation is pain.
  • Mesh infection – this is very very rare (about 1 in 500 risk). The mesh can become infected – usually from bacteria on the patient’s skin. If this does occur the mesh will normally have to be removed with another operation and the hernia may come back (recur).