A hernia is a common medical condition that happens when part of an internal organ or tissue pushes through a weak area of muscle, creating a bulge. It is caused by a combination of muscle weakness and straining, such as when lifting something heavy. Most hernias occur in the abdomen, between the chest and the hips, and they can develop in men, women, and children. Some people are born with weak abdominal muscles and therefore may be more likely to develop a hernia. The most common treatment for a hernia is surgery to repair the opening in the muscle wall. Untreated hernias tend to keep growing, often causing pain and health problems.

There are many different types of hernias, some of which are described below:
  • Inguinal hernias, which are the most common type of hernia and are seen much more often in men than in women. They occur in the groin area, in a part of the abdominal wall known as the inguinal canal.
  • Ventral hernias, which can occur in nearly any part of the abdominal wall. One of the most common types of ventral hernia is the incisional hernia, which develops from cuts (incisions) in the abdominal muscles, such as those made during a surgical procedure. Incisional hernias commonly appear near surgical scars, where the muscle and tissue underneath is weakened.
  • Parastomal hernias develop near the site of a stoma, which is a hole created in the body by a surgeon to allow urine and other bodily waste to be collected in a pouch outside of the body. Stomas usually are created in response to a disease or infection in the digestive system, to help it heal. However, stomas also weaken the muscles in the abdominal wall, which can lead to a parastomal hernia.
  • Hiatal hernias, which are small openings in the diaphragm (a muscle in the abdomen that helps with breathing) that allow the upper part of the stomach to move up into the chest.
  • Congenital diaphragmatic hernias, which are birth defects that occur when the diaphragm muscle fails to close during prenatal development. This creates a hole that allows the contents from the abdomen (stomach, intestines, and/or liver) to leak into the chest. Surgery usually is required to close the hole.
  • Umbilical hernias, which occur near the belly button and usually are harmless. They are most common in infants but can affect adults, too.


UAB Medicine is recognized worldwide as a leading center for digestive and liver disorders. Our division is consistently rated among the top programs in the nation, and we have extensive experience with such disorders. Annually, we see more than 20,000 patients and perform more than 12,000 outpatient procedures.

This specialty at UAB has a luminous history. The inventor of the endoscope, Basil Hirschowitz, MD, founded our program more than 50 years ago. His innovation revolutionized gastrointestinal (GI) and other diagnoses around the world and continues to inspire us today. Our interventional endoscopy group, which includes endoscopic ultrasound, is one of the busiest in the country and has grown into one of the most prestigious, both clinically and academically.

UAB Medicine continues to lead the advancement of gastroenterology with many active clinical trials that offer the latest in drug therapy and other treatments for digestive disorders. Our physicians and scientists are searching for causes and cures for many illnesses through basic research, including studies of the bacteria that inhabit our intestines and affect our health.

The UAB Medicine liver transplantation program is one of the most successful in the country based on volume and survival rates. A wide variety of specialized clinics serve the individualized needs of people in a supportive and convenient way. In addition, a Liver Disease Support Group that includes an informative newsletter and regular meetings is available to all patients.

UAB Medicine, a partner of the Americas Hernia Society Quality Collaborative, is using a pain pathway (ERAS) to improve pain outcomes after surgery.



UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of high cholesterol. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

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