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Post-surgical pain, physical activity and satisfaction with the decision to undergo hernia surgery: a prospective qualitative investigation

Rachael Powell, Lorna McKee, Peter M. King, Julie Bruce
  • Rachael Powell
    School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom |
  • Lorna McKee
    Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
  • Peter M. King
    Department of Surgery, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
  • Julie Bruce
    Warwick Clinical Trials Unit, University of Warwick, Coventry, United Kingdom


Surgical repair is a common treatment for inguinal hernias but a substantial number of patients experience chronic pain after surgery. As some patients are pain-free on presentation, it is important to investigate whether patients perceive the treatment to be beneficial. The present study used qualitative methods to explore experiences of pain, activity limitations and satisfaction with treatment as people underwent surgery and recovery. Twenty-nine semi-structured interviews were conducted. Seven participants were interviewed longitudinally: before surgery and two weeks and four months post-surgery. Ten further participants with residual pain four months post-surgery were interviewed once. Semi-structured interviews included experience and perception of pain; activity limitations; reasons for having surgery; satisfaction with the decision to undergo surgery. A thematic analysis was conducted. Pain did not cause concern when perceived as part of the usual surgery and recovery processes. Activity was limited to avoid damage to the hernia site rather than to avoid pain. None of the participants reported dissatisfaction with the decision to have surgery; reducing the risk of life-threatening complications associated with untreated hernias was considered important. These findings suggest that people regarded surgical treatment as worthwhile, despite chronic post-surgical pain. Further research should ascertain whether patients are aware of the actual risk of complications associated with conservative rather than surgical management of inguinal hernia.


pain, inguinal hernia, surgery, activity limitations, patient satisfaction

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Submitted: 2012-11-05 13:57:14
Published: 2013-06-13 10:52:29
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Copyright (c) 2013 Rachael Powell, Lorna McKee, Peter M. King, Julie Bruce

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