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Customer advice

The advice on this page covers general information about hernias and how to manage them. For individual advice, specific to your individual medical condition or circumstances, please speak to a healthcare professional. For tailored advice about hernia support garments, please contact our team or arrange a one-to-one fitting appointment.

What is a hernia?

A hernia is a weakness or split in the muscle wall of the abdomen which allows the abdominal contents (usually some part of the intestine) to bulge out. The bulge is particularly noticeable upon tensing the abdominal wall muscles.

Stomas pose an additional problem. When a stoma is created, an incision is made into the muscles of the abdominal wall, and a hernia occurs when the edges of the stoma come away and can no longer be supported by the weakened muscles. This allows a section of bowel to protrude through and sit outside the abdomen but under the skin, causing it to bulge.

Surveys have reported that, over time, up to 70% of ostomates develop a parastomal hernia. The longer a stoma is present, the more likely it is that a hernia will occur. Hernias usually occur gradually and can increase over time if not supported. Many hernias are asymptomatic and cause no problems unless they get bigger.

For more information and advice about living with a stoma, download the Stoma Tips magazine.

What causes a parastomal hernia?

Factors that can contribute to causing a stoma hernia to occur include coughing, being overweight or having developed an infection in the wound at the time the stoma was made.

The development of a stoma hernia is often gradual, with the area next to the stoma stretching and becoming weaker with the passage of time. This weakness, or gap, means that every time one strains, coughs, sneezes or stands up, the area of the abdomen next to the stoma bulges, or the whole stoma itself protrudes as it is pushed forwards by the rest of the abdominal contents behind it.

As with all hernias, the size will increase as time goes by. Stoma hernias are rarely painful but are usually uncomfortable and can become extremely inconvenient.

Some patients are more prone to hernias as a result of increased pressure in the abdomen pushing against weakened muscles.

High risk factors include:

• Obesity
• Chronic Respiratory Conditions
• Smoking
• Excessive coughing and sneezing
• Chronic constipation
• Extensive abdominal surgery

Certain factors during surgery can lead to an increased risk of developing a hernia such as emergency surgery or certain stoma sites. Unfortunately, these factors are beyond control.

How can a parastomal hernia be treated?

First line treatment is to wear a stoma support garment. Additionally, exercise or pilates, aimed at strengthening the core muscles, may help.

Most parastomal hernias do not require surgery. However, if the hernia is causing pain and/or becoming unmanageable, surgery can be considered. As with all operations that require an anaesthetic there are associated risks. Surgery, therefore, may not be recommended for those who are elderly and infirm or those with serious heart or breathing problems.

Having a hernia repair does not guarantee it will not recur.

How can a hernia be avoided?

Most hernias can be managed conservatively without the need for further surgery.

The longer a stoma is present the greater the chance of a hernia developing. Lifestyle changes can help to reduce the likelihood of a hernia occurring.

• Maintain a healthy weight
• Stop smoking
• Take regular exercise such as walking or swimming
• Avoid activities that include heavy lifting
• Avoid coughing, sneezing and straining
• Support the stoma and wound when straining
• Avoid constipation

Wearing a support garment can also help to reduce the risk of a hernia developing. A well fitted garment will give support to enable you to continue your daily activities but will still enable your stoma to function properly.

Our support garments are available on NHS prescription or via our online shop.

If you develop a parastomal hernia you are recommended to contact your stoma care nurse who will carry out an assessment.

Your stoma care nurse will refer you to the AMI Suportx specialist fitting team, who will assess and measure you either remotely or during a home visit.

What should I consider post surgery?

You should avoid heavy lifting for 3 months post-surgery and try to maintain a good posture at all times.

Follow a healthy, balanced diet and exercise shortly after discharge, as long as any wounds have completely healed.

Support your stoma and abdomen when coughing, especially in the first few months post-surgery.

Regularly monitor your stoma to ensure it is functioning properly, and sleep on the opposite side to your stoma.

It is natural for our body shape to change over time, and if you find that your support garment no longer provides the required support or simply does not fit please contact us to arrange a specialist fitting appointment.

Which products are recommended for different conditions?

The table below shows which products are most suitable for certain medical conditions. However, for a fully bespoke garment recommendation, please book a free fitting appointment with one of our specialists.

How can suportx help me?

With over 30 years’ experience supporting hernia patients, our certified fitters are on hand to simplify the decision-making process when it comes to finding the right garment for you. Whether you have recently developed a hernia, had abdominal surgery or been advised to take preventative measures, our free fitting service will give you the knowledge and confidence to choose the perfect product
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Our range

Each hernia patient we work with is individual and unique. Which is why our range of support garments has been designed and developed to reflect many different medical requirements and lifestyles. The solutions we offer are not limited to those we list on our website, so if you can't find what you're looking for, contact our team to discuss creating a fully bespoke product, made just for you.

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Our Suportx hernia support garments are available on prescription. Learn more about the ordering process on our prescription page, which outlines what you can expect as a new or existing patient.

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