Laparoscopic hernia repair – My story

I previously wrote about the “open” surgery I had for my hernia. Unfortunately, the hernia came back 3 months later. This is rare (occurring maybe 1 or 2% of the time). I have since had additional surgery. This time it was laparoscopic. The two methods are very different and the recoveries and related pain are very different. Here I’ll describe the new method and compare it to “open”.

In a nutshell, here are the major differences between the experiences of laparoscopic and open surgery for hernia repair:

  1. Laparoscopic surgery hurt more the first few days, but the pain dropped off fast and disappeared much faster compared to open surgery. With open surgery, the pain was never horrible, but took longer to fade away.
  2. I was able to comfortably sleep on my side sooner with open surgery than laparoscopic surgery.
  3. There were major reductions in pain five (5) days after the surgeries – both of them. That appears to be the magic number.

If you are planning having either type of surgery, I’d recommend reading the first part of the previous entry, because I list things I did to prepare. I did those again this time as well and still recommend them. I did 2 things differently, though. 1) I only ate soft foods (like soup or yogurt or smoothies) for the two days leading up to the surgery. 2) I also started to take laxatives starting two days before and for the first few days was pretty aggressive with the dosages. I would recommend both of these things whole heartedly.

Day 0: I went back to UNC Hospitals. Having done this before, I already new the drill and everything went very smoothly. Last time, the anesthetic left my brain scattered for weeks, so this time I asked if they could try something else. They did, this time putting all of it into me intravenously instead of mixing it with the oxygen, and my head is already much clearer than before.

Once the main pain killers wore off, I found the pain from the incisions – three 1-2 cm wide cuts – one in my belly button, one about three inches to left and one three inches to the right – pretty intense and acute. It made breathing, especially taking deep breaths, painful. It also made it harder to eat food. Last time I remember having a huge appetite. This time has been completely different. I’ve only ate two bowls of soup during the day and was completely full.

At night, laying in bed and breathing was very painful and I ended up taking two Percocet pills. Unlike the first time I tried this, I slept through the night. I also drank 2 Tbs. of milk of magnesia.

Day 1: My appetite was minimal and everything hurt. Breathing hurt. I felt incredibly bloated. I took another two Percocet pills to get to sleep. The one highlight, however, was taking a shower. It felt great.

Day 2: I reviewed my original “open surgery” post and saw that I took a good deal of ibuprofen and acetaminophen back then. Today I started the same regimen. I felt significantly better. Most of the day I moved about with relative ease and had no difficulty standing up or sitting down until the end of the day. My appetite returned and I ate a burger with fries. The burger was delicious.

Day 3: I continued to improve. I also had my first full bowel movement. One thing different about the laparoscopic surgery is that it’s much more difficult to sleep on my side. This makes it much harder to sleep through the night. I wake up around 3am with a strong desire to roll over, and I try to do this, but it hurts too much to fall back to sleep.

Days 4 and 5: I barely slept the night before and spent as much of the day laying down as possible. I watched a funny movie, and that made me laugh, and that was very, very painful. The good news, however, is that this time I have not developed the same, evil cough that I did last time. That cough was uncontrollable and hurt like crazy. This time I can control things better. If laughing hurts, I can stop watching the movie.

Days 6 and 7: The pain at the sites of the incisions decreased a lot. So much that I no longer felt like I was constantly looking forward to the next time I could take Advil. The change was sudden and a huge relief. If I were allowed to return to work, I would do so comfortably. Instead, I have another week of taking it easy, making sure I don’t have to do the surgery yet another time.

Days 8-10: Continued improvement. Mobility is a non-issue. I still haven’t performed any real stress tests yet, though.

Days 11 on: It’s almost a year after the surgery, so let me summarize – it’s a bit of a roller coaster, but ultimately, I’m doing really well. There are days that are very scary – it feels like the original pain is back – it hurts really bad. But, unlike before, the pain fades after a day. This happens every time I try something new. If I go jogging and decide I want to run a little faster than I did last time, the next day I’m in pain. If I go for a walk and want to walk a little further than next time, the next day I’m in pain. This is the same for everything. If it’s new, it hurts. But the pain always fades. And once I’ve done the new thing, I’m set – the pain only comes back when I walk a little further or run a little faster. At one point I got a cold and coughing brought on some really bad pain. I saw a doctor about this. He said, “you’ve got a lot of scar tissue and will always be adjusting to that, but it’s nothing to worry about”. This has proven to be true.

Health and fitness wise, I’m doing as well as I’ve ever done, and am contemplating running races again.

One year later: Like I said before, the last year has been a little bit of a roller coaster, but, in general, I’m feeling more and more comfortable as time goes by.

3 thoughts on “Laparoscopic hernia repair – My story

  1. R Pace says:

    Thanks for a helpful story. I’m glad you are so much improved.

    After I had my hysterectomy, the evening before I was to be released from the hospital, a nurse insisted that I should take a Percocet. I didn’t want it, as I really wasn’t having any trouble with pain, but she was persistent and insistent, so I took it. The smell of it made me vomit. This tore my internal stitches and caused an incarcerated colon surgical hernia. Although I threw up several times that night, the inexperienced nurses did not recognize the problem and I was sent home in the morning. I will not go into further details, but I nearly died. I spent a long time in the hospital and longer at home recovering from infection. 17 years later there are still annoying issues.

  2. jorgefilemon says:

    hi josh! thanks for sharing!. i just got my open inguinal hernia surgery a week ago and im feeling kind of bummed cause i think laparoscopy surgery is better and my doc never mention it cause i guess he doesnt perfom it. after a week it really hurts where the cut was made and inside my body. like a string being pulled from my stomach to the groin that hurts like hell. im feeling that if i had gone under laparscopic surgery i wouldnt have been feeling all this pain. plus theres almost no scar under laparoscopic. u think laparoscopic has more benefits ?

    1. Josh says:

      It’s hard to say. Both hurt a lot! Laparoscopic hurt a lot more upfront, but open hurt for longer. The scar from open is largely hidden from view, but the small laparoscopic scars are visible above the waistline. All that said, though, if what you had done works, then it’s the right one for you. Once you recover, it’s like having a whole new life.

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