Exercise and Fitness

Benefits of Building Core Strength Before and After Hernia Surgery

As she looked at herself in the mirror, Landolus Black, 74, could see that her stomach was growing. “I looked five to six months pregnant,” Black recalls. Half a dozen surgeries had weakened her abdominal muscles over time, with the most recent in 2015 for hernia repair and resulting complications. Her surgeon used a skin graft across her abdomen when her abdominal incision failed to heal.

In early 2017, the hernia occurred again, with her intestines bulging through her abdominal wall and pressing against her skin graft. Because of the large size (about six inches) and complexity of the hernia, Black’s doctor referred her to general surgeon Bryan Ellis, DO, TriHealth Comprehensive Hernia Center, for his skill in repairing large hernias.

Black says she also is benefiting from an exercise study Dr. Ellis is conducting to determine whether strengthening abdominal muscles before and after hernia surgery can improve recovery time and long-term abdominal wall strength. He notes that with larger hernias, there’s a tendency for the hernia to recur.

Testing Benefits of Exercise Pre- and Post-Hernia Surgery

“There is anecdotal data suggesting that preoperative fitness predicts fewer surgical complications and better overall outcomes,” Dr. Ellis states. He is hopeful that both preoperative and postoperative exercise will prevent hernia recurrence.

Dr. Ellis enrolled Black in the exercise study, and she received instructions to attend physical therapy sessions to build her muscles for six weeks before she received the surgery.

Black underwent the five-hour hernia surgery in March 2017. Dr. Ellis attached mesh to her abdominal wall to allow Black’s own tissue to grow naturally into the mesh and provide strength and support to the repaired hernia.  

In Black’s words, “It was a walk in the park, due to Dr. Ellis’ great skills. He’s a wonderful guy and very personable.”

She said the core muscle exercises she did before her surgery made her feel stronger after surgery. “I could get up out of bed using my core muscles,” she says proudly. She completed four weeks of physical therapy following the surgery. Now she’s started a six-week exercise routine, twice a week, under the guidance of Karen Sims, MC, ATC, certified athletic trainer, at TriHealth Fitness & Health Pavilion.

Dr. Ellis comments, “We are one of the first places in the country to have a hospital and medical fitness facility working together to offer a structured exercise regimen both before and after surgical hernia repair.”

Black says she has struggled most of her life to maintain a regular exercise program, but her motivation now is greater than ever. She wants to enjoy life with her husband of almost 50 years, her three children, five grandchildren and great-grandchild.

“My personal goal is to keep exercising and keep moving,” she says. “If you don’t use it, you lose it. There’s no way I want to go back to the nursing home,” she adds, referring to a time after last year’s surgery and intensive care stay when she developed drop foot and had to learn to walk again.

For Black, the key is, “You have to stay positive, push yourself and put the work in. I feel better, and I’m looking forward to feeling great.”

Tags Exercise and Fitness , Rehabilitation