Recovery From Hernia Mesh Surgery

After hernia mesh surgery, most patients can go home the same day. Full recovery time may take four to six weeks. Right after surgery, patients should perform only necessary daily functions but can return to light activity after a few weeks of recovery. Heavy activity can resume after six weeks.

Last Modified: October 24, 2022
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What to Expect During Hernia Mesh Surgery Recovery

While you are recovering from hernia mesh surgery it may take several weeks before you can resume your regular activities. Most patients leave the hospital a few hours after the procedure, although the length of stay mostly depends on the surgery’s complexity. Doctors will insist you not lift anything or tackle strenuous tasks for the first week of recovery.

You are likely to feel some pain and tightness near your hernia mesh site and minor swelling in the first few days. These symptoms should gradually fade over the first few weeks of recovery.

Following your doctor’s instructions after hernia mesh surgery gives you a straightforward path to a safe and speedy recovery.

Dr. Robert Bendavid explains how a patient might feel after hernia mesh surgery.

How Long Does It Take to Recover from Hernia Mesh Surgery?

How long it takes for hernia mesh to heal depends on the type of surgery and the extent of the hernia repair. Most people can expect a full recovery about four to six weeks after the procedure.

A typical recovery progression follows this timeline:
  • Week 1: You may walk and do some light stretching. Lift as little as possible and take any prescribed painkillers to stay ahead of discomfort. Some doctors ask you to avoid a full shower or bath. By the end of the week, you should be feeling much better.
  • Week 2: During your second week of recovery you will be allowed to lift objects that weigh less than 20 pounds and increase your stretching. Going back to work is allowed, except manual labor. By the end of the week you should be feeling much better, although doctors recommend postponing sexual activity.
  • Week 3: Your stitches should be closed and you can take full baths and showers. Keep any lifting to a minimum (and still below 20 pounds). Your need for pain medication should taper off.
  • Week 4: At this point you can engage in sex. You should be able to lift things without pain and with no chance of damaging your hernia repair. People who have manual labor jobs should be back at work full time.
  • Weeks 5-6: Any recovery needed after four weeks usually depends on whether you develop complications or if you feel you need more rest.

Doctors may prescribe opioids or similarly strong pain medications (morphine, oxycodone or Percocet) for people who experience high levels of pain after surgery. However, over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol and ibuprofen are usually adequate.

Factors Affecting Hernia Surgery Recovery

Several factors affect how quickly and how well you recover from hernia surgery, especially your overall health. How healthy were you prior to surgery. The stronger your core muscles and the more comfortable you are with exercise will make for a faster return to normal activities.

Other factors that affect how well you recover from hernia mesh surgery include:
  • Preoperative: Age, gender, weight, body mass index, smoking history, alcohol use, diabetes, hypertension and previous abdominal surgery are all factors.
  • Postoperative: Among these are wound infections, surgical site disturbances, pain, length of hospital stay and the development of complications.
  • Mental Health: Similar to your overall level of physical health, these factors include anxiety, depression, fear of hernia recurrence and expectations about recovery.

The type of hernia and hernia surgery also affect recovery. If you went through an inguinal hernia surgery you could recover more quickly than a person with an umbilical hernia.

Caring for Yourself at Home

Self-care at home after hernia surgery includes moderate exercise, healthy eating and caring for your incision. Be sure to follow all your doctor’s instructions for a quick recovery.

It is important to avoid lifting heavy objects or exercising vigorously immediately after surgery. Be aware that hernia mesh surgery can affect your sexual activity.

Incision Care

After surgery, caring for your incision is very important. Keep the area around the incision site clean. If you don’t clean the area properly, bacteria could build up and cause infection.

Use a sterile bandage or gauze to cover the incision site to keep it dry and prevent further bleeding. Don’t leave the same bandage on for longer than 24 hours.

Wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water daily. Be careful not to scrub at the incision site. Pat it dry, and don’t use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as that could slow down healing.

Physical Activity Guidelines

Your doctor will prescribe exercises to strengthen the abdominal wall and surrounding muscles once the initial recovery period from surgery is over. In addition, you’ll be provided recommended stretching exercises to prevent scarring and adhesions.

Stretching exercises can help you regain your core range of motion and increase flexibility.

Sleep is also essential to your recovery. Be sure to get eight hours of sleep each night.

Diet

A high-fiber diet promotes healing. That means bran cereal, oatmeal or fruit for breakfast and a combination of fiber (dense bread, sweet potatoes) and lean protein for other meals. You might need fiber supplements to help prevent constipation.

Foods rich in vitamin C, zinc, iron and vitamin B are also beneficial.

Medications

You may receive prescriptions for different medications following hernia mesh surgery. Pain pills are often prescribed.

Contact your doctor immediately if you develop fever, chills or severe abdominal pain. Ask questions of your health care team if something doesn’t seem right.

Other Tips

Relaxation techniques can help reduce anxiety and stress during your recovery. Any activity that you enjoy is helpful. Listen to music, podcasts or books, read, walk or meditate. 

Hold a pillow over your stomach when you cough, laugh or take deep breaths to protect your incision.

Possible Complications After Hernia Mesh Surgery

Discomfort after any surgery is to be expected. Ongoing pain is not. It’s possible that you could have serious hernia mesh complications after your surgery.

One of the most serious complications of hernia mesh surgery is rejection. If your body rejects your new mesh implant, you may develop an ongoing fever, pain, inflammation, swelling and vomiting. Any signs that indicate you have a hernia mesh failure may lead to another hernia operation.

Recurrence was the most common complication before the hernia mesh’s invention. Research is mixed on how long a mesh hernia repair will last. A 2022 study followed 100 patients for ten years after a ventral abdominal hernia repair.

No recurrence was recorded after three years, while about 10% had a recurrence after roughly eight years. Two patients had a central breakdown of the mesh at about seven years. Mesh had stretched across the defect by an average of 21%. Mechanical testing showed that the mesh lost its elasticity at low forces.

If you experience any of the following complications, it’s important that you report them as soon as possible.
  • Lingering pain
  • Infection
  • Mesh failure
  • Mesh rejection
  • Hernia recurrence
  • Migration
  • Adhesion
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Sudden increased pain in the surgical wound
  • Increased redness at the incision area
  • Bleeding or drainage at the surgical site
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • High fever (101 F or higher)
  • Trouble urinating
  • Excessive swelling or bruising at the incision

Constipation is a common complication and can be a side effect of painkillers and post-surgery inactivity. You may not have regular bowel movements for up to five days after surgery. To help avoid constipation, consume high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains and drink lots of water.

Bowel obstructions can lead to serious issues. Let your health care team know about any bowel issues you may be experiencing.

Lawsuit Information
Patients experiencing serious complications from hernia mesh surgery are filing lawsuits. Learn more.
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Following Up with Your Doctor After Surgery

Your health care team will likely communicate with you the day after surgery, especially if you received a prescription pain medication.

Ask your doctor or nurse any hernia mesh questions you have during your recovery. You will likely have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. That visit will be a week or two after your procedure.

If you run a fever, feel extraordinarily bloated, or have pain in the surgery area, contact your doctor immediately.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.