A California man attempted to perform hernia surgery on himself this week. The 63 year old used a common butter knife and even tried to seal the wound with a cigarette when local police finally arrived on the scene. What can make a hernia so bad that a person would do anything to get it out of their system?

Pain occurs from hernias for several reasons, and can and does often vary in character (sharp, dull, burning etc.) and severity from patient to patient. Pain can occur because the tissue at and around the hole is being stretched or torn and therefore in some fashion damaged. This usually will cause pain directly at the site of the hernia and is characterized as Localized Pain.

Pain, localized to the area of the hernia defect itself is usually the result of stretching and tearing of the abdominal wall tissue such as the area muscle and tendon. As the bulge increases, this pain tends to be more intense. As the bulge reduces, and the contents of the hernia fall back into the abdominal cavity itself, the pain reduces or perhaps even disappears, only to recur again as the hernia once again protrudes. The character of the pain varies. It may be a severe, intense and sharp type pain, or it may be only a dull ache in the area. Other potential characteristics include burning, stinging and “raw sensation” type of pain.

Pain may also occur as a result of irritation of or damage to area nerves as a result of the hernia and its contents pushing into or pinching the nerves. This too may cause localized pain, or may cause pain at a more distant area and is called Referred Pain.

If the hernia irritates, inflames or damages nearby nerves, the pain felt from the hernia may not be at the site of the hernia, but rather at the area to which these nerves are traveling. For example, pain from an Inguinal Hernia may be felt as discomfort in the scrotum of men or the labia of women, or the back, upper leg and /or hip area. This is because nerves that supply sensation to these remote areas travel through the inguinal canal (site of the hernia) and may therefore be irritated or inflamed by the hernia itself.

If the abdominal contents have become trapped or damaged within the confines of the hernia, as is the case with hernia Incarceration or Strangulation, the pain may well become more generalized in location and may even involve the entire abdomen if secondary peritonitis develops.

When police arrived at the man’s home, they saw him lying naked outside on a lounge chair with what appeared to be the handle of a knife protruding from his stomach. As police waited for paramedics to arrive, the man pulled out the knife and shoved a cigarette he was smoking inside the open wound.

Sam Carvajal, a surgeon at Glendale, California Adventist Medical Center states the obvious:

“It is absolutely impossible for someone to fix their own hernia.”

Sources: The North Penn Hernia Institute and Los Angeles Times

Written by Sy Kraft