Most hernias are not dangerous, but a doctor may recommended surgery to repair the hernia to prevent potentially harmful complications, according to Healthline. The largest risk with an umbilical or inguinal hernia is a part of the intestine becoming trapped outside of the hernia, explains Mayo Clinic. This condition, called incarceration, causes uncomfortable symptoms, but it also can restrict blood flow to part of the intestine. Without adequate blood flow, gangrene and other potentially fatal problems can occur.
When a hernia traps part of the intestine, it leads to a bowel obstruction that causes food to become stuck within the digestive tract, according to California Hernia Specialists. Sometimes, the blockage is not complete or the bowel may shift within the hernia. When this occurs, intermittent vomiting and nausea is common. These symptoms, as well as pain and chronic constipation, are important indicators of a serious complication that merits medical attention.
Strangulation, caused by lack of blood flow to the intestine due to incarceration, requires immediate surgery, reports Mayo Clinic. It causes tissue death and permanent damage to the intestine, notes California Hernia Specialists. The surgeon removes the dead section of the intestine, moves the rest of the surrounding tissue into a better configuration and attempts to repair the hernia to prevent further complications, explains WebMD.