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Maureen Feels Years Younger After Complex Hernia Surgery

Patient Stories
August 19, 2019
Maureen Feels Years Younger After Complex Hernia Surgery

Maureen Wood had a history of three failed hernia surgeries when she arrived on a Sunday afternoon in September 2018 at TriHealth Bethesda North Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED). She had a partially obstructed bowel and was certain that her hernia from a long-ago hysterectomy incision was the likely culprit.

The 61-year-old Hillsboro, Ohio, resident had asked her husband to drive her the hour and 10 minutes to northeastern Cincinnati for help from TriHealth’s Bethesda North Hospital and its Comprehensive Hernia Program.

“I had done some research online and chose Bethesda North because I had read about the doctors’ expertise with complex hernias,” Maureen says.

She describes the 13- to 14-inch hole in her abdominal wall, saying, “Like a tiny rip in your pants, the hole had just gotten bigger and bigger. The bulge in my stomach was about the size of a softball.”

Fortunately, her bowel obstruction resolved itself while she was in the ED, and hernia specialist Bryan Ellis, DO, assistant program director and surgeon for the hernia program, sat down to talk about next steps.

Dr. Ellis informed her that TriHealth surgeons were doing a new procedure performed by only a handful of surgeons across the country. Their unique exercise program before and after surgery was also producing positive results.

After her discussion with Dr. Ellis, Maureen knew she was in the right place for her complex hernia repair.

Prehabilitation: Improving Fitness Before Surgery

During a follow-up visit to Dr. Ellis’ office at the TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion, Maureen learned how improving her core strength before surgery and continuing with exercise after surgery could significantly improve her odds of a long-lasting hernia repair. Dr. Ellis enrolled Maureen in a study in which she did prehabilitation, six weeks of core strengthening and exercise with an athletic trainer and physical therapist before surgery.

Maureen believed that excess weight had contributed to her hernia, and she had lost about 50 pounds before her emergency room visit. During her prehabilitation, she lost another 20 pounds through diet and exercise.

“I’m a dental hygienist and I have grandkids,” Maureen says. “Before surgery, I was able to go to work and do my job. But I couldn’t get down on the floor easily to play with the grandkids.”

She performed her prehabilitation exercise routine at the TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion twice a week. “The facility is wonderful and state of the art. What stood out was the personal touch of Karen Sims, my athletic trainer. The whole experience helped tremendously to make my core muscles stronger.”

A Unique Surgical Approach

Maureen received a Botox injection into her torn abdominal muscles six weeks before surgery to make those muscles more pliable and movable during her surgery.

Dr. Ellis notes, “This is a new technique developed in the last couple of years. We only use Botox on really big hernias where we have to stretch the muscles.”

On Dec. 3, 2018, Dr. Ellis performed a complex surgical wall reconstruction on Maureen called a transversus abdominis muscle release. “I recreated her entire abdominal wall with a technique that releases the sheath that contains the transversus abdominal muscles so they can be realigned in the middle.”

Dr. Ellis first removed mesh from previous surgeries that had failed to keep Maureen’s abdominal wall in place. Then he pulled the muscles that had slipped to the left and right of the abdomen back to the center and secured them in their proper position. He placed mesh under the muscle layer for maximum strength. Plastic surgeon Binh Nguyen, MD, with TriHealth’s Cosmetic Surgery & Rejuvenation Center, was also on hand to remove excess skin resulting from Maureen’s weight loss.

Feeling 10 Years Younger

Maureen’s recovery went smoothly. Her muscles recovered strength as the Botox wore off, and she returned to the Pavilion for 10 weeks of post-surgery exercise and strengthening.

She reports, “I’m still exercising lightly and I feel better – more energetic. I feel at least 10 years younger. I can lift up my little grandbaby and get down on the floor and play with the grandkids.

“Dr. Ellis went the extra mile to make this successful. I pray that it will be successful for my lifetime.”

Dr. Ellis likes her chances: “Maureen was aggressive with her physical therapy. She’s lost significant weight since her surgery years ago. I think she’ll be very successful long term, because she worked so hard exercising before and after surgery.”

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