You may have come across the term 'watchful waiting' in your research on hernias or been told about it by your doctor. So what does this term actually mean and why is it used when talking about a strategy for dealing with a hernia?
What is Watchful-Waiting?
'Watchful-Waiting' is the process of doing nothing but monitoring your hernia and trying to mitigate the condition. Diet, weight-loss and smoking as well as a healthly lifestyle with moderate exercise are all elements of this. We would suggest that our underwear is also an important factor in managing this condition.
If your hernia is painful and you are getting no relief then a course of 'waiting' for improvement will have little benefit. You should seek surgery in consultation with your doctor or medical practitioner.
Evidence of the benefits of Watchful-Waiting
A recent article in Annuals of Surgery (September 2013 - Volume 258 - Issue 3 - p 508–515) describes a long-term trial of men with Inguinal Hernias. Of the 254 men who consented to a period of watchful waiting just 32% had requested surgery in the follow-up period of 7 years (younger men fared better than older men at managing their hernias). This is despite the small risks of complications from strangulated hernias and peritonitis which often encourage patients to elect for surgery.
The conclusion drawn from the study was :
"Men who present to their physicians because of an inguinal hernia even when minimally symptomatic should be counseled that although watchful-waiting (WW) is a reasonable and safe strategy, symptoms will likely progress and an operation will be needed eventually"
(Our emphasis in bold).