Open hernia repair vs. laparoscopic hernia repair: What’s the difference?

Hernia repair surgery is a treatment option for patients with hernias painful enough to affect their everyday lives. A hernia is when internal tissue protrudes through a weakness in the surrounding muscle. They aren’t always harmful, but hernias won’t go away without surgery. During hernia repair surgery, a surgeon gently pushes the organ or other internal tissue back into place and closes the hole in the muscle wall. Often, surgical mesh is used to add strength and support to the muscles as they grow back together.

If your doctor has recommended hernia repair surgery, it’s usually because your hernia is growing or causing chronic pain. When you schedule your hernia repair, you’ll have two options—open hernia repair and laparoscopic hernia repair. Below, learn the differences between open and laparoscopic hernia repair surgery so you can decide which is best for you.

Open vs. laparoscopic hernia repair: What’s the difference?

Hernia repair surgery, both laparoscopic and open, is usually an outpatient procedure. This means you’ll be able to go home a few hours after your surgery. Both procedures require general anesthesia or a local anesthesia and sedation. Either way, you won’t feel pain during the surgery.

There is no difference hernia recurrence rates for open and laparoscopic hernia repair surgeries. Though the two types of procedures have different recovery times, post-surgery recommendations are similar.  These include returning to light activities (such as walking) as soon as possible but avoiding any activities that put a strain on the site of your hernia.

What is open hernia repair surgery?

During open hernia repair surgery, also called traditional hernia repair, a surgeon makes a large incision over the hernia. They gently push the protruding tissue back into place before closing the weakened muscle area with either sutures or a combination of sutures and surgical mesh. Then, they close the incision with stitches.

This option allows surgeons to have a more complete view of the area surrounding the hernia. For this reason, open hernia repair procedures often have fewer complications during surgery and shorter operating times.

What is laparoscopic hernia repair surgery?

In laparoscopic hernia repair surgery, the surgeon operates through a series of small incisions around a hernia. They use a thin tube with a camera at the end, called a laparoscope, to guide the hernia repair. During this surgery, your stomach will be inflated with carbon dioxide, a harmless gas, to allow the surgeon more room to operate.

After gently pushing the hernia back into place, the surgeon will close the hole in the muscle wall, similar to the procedure for open hernia repair surgery. When the operation is over, they’ll close the small incisions with surgical tape or stitches. As your body heals, the cuts from your hernia repair surgery will become barely visible.

Because of the nature of the procedure, surgeons need special training to perform laparoscopic hernia repair. Special surgical equipment is also required for laparoscopic procedures. These factors can cause laparoscopic hernia repair to be more expensive than open hernia repair surgery.

Laparoscopic hernia repair surgery is associated with less blood loss during surgery. In addition, patients who undergo laparoscopic surgery have been shown to have less pain and numbness during the recovery process. Because of the smaller incisions, laparoscopic surgery often leads to shorter recovery times than open surgery. Laparoscopic hernia repair patients are typically back to their normal activity levels a week sooner than open hernia repair patients.

Open vs. laparoscopic hernia repair: Which option is right for you?

There are many things to consider when deciding which type of hernia repair surgery is right for you, such as:

  • The size and placement of the hernia
  • The risk for complications
  • The surgeon’s skill level
  • Your surgery budget
  • Your medical history and overall health

Talk with your physician about these factors, as well as any concerns you may have about your hernia repair. They’ll help you decide which type of surgery is best for your specific situation.

Open Hernia Repair Laparoscopic Hernia Repair
One large incision Several smaller incisions
Most common technique Less common; requires special equipment and training
Similar hernia recurrence rates Similar hernia recurrence rates
Easier to repair large or complex hernias Better for less complex hernias
Slightly more pain and numbness after surgery Less pain and numbness after surgery
Slightly longer recovery Shorter recovery
Less expensive More expensive
Less risk of complications during surgery Slightly higher risk of complications during surgery

Open vs. laparoscopic hernia repair: How much should you pay?

Whether you choose open or laparoscopic hernia repair surgery, you should be comfortable with your decision. If you’re unsure about your choice or your physician’s recommendations, you have the right to a second opinion. If you’re concerned about paying for hernia repair surgery, there may be more options than you think.

Our Hernia Assist program can help you find financing options to lower the cost of your hernia repair surgery. The national average price for hernia surgery is $7,750, but the hernia assistance program could lower that by as much as $4,000. For more pricing information, check out our blog post on hernia surgery cost averages in the U.S.

To learn more about saving money on your hernia repair, contact us on our Hernia Repair Patient Assist page.


Reviewed and updated 12/21/2022.

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New Choice Health, Inc.
(850) 898-1410
3 W Garden St. STE 206
Pensacola, FL 32502