As a general surgeon, Dr. Wade B. Larsen performs all procedures that do not fit into specialty areas.
These operations include appendectomies, mastectomies and other breast cancer surgery, gallbladder removal, colonoscopies and more. They all fit under the reasoning that inspired Dr. Larsen to specialize in general surgery: He enjoys fixing problems.
Dr. Larsen, a native of Preston, Idaho, began his upper education at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, completing a B.A. in biology. He earned his M.D. at Albany Medical College, Albany, N.Y.
He was accepted at Creighton University Affiliated, in Omaha, Neb., where he completed his residency in general surgery. During his residency he conducted clinical research in vascular surgery and vascular ultrasound, for which he was awarded “best research by a resident” by the Nebraska chapter of the American College of Surgeons.
Dr. Larsen and his wife, Meridee, are the parents of five children. He enjoys spending his time off participating in adventure sports like white-water rafting and kayaking, rock climbing and motorcycle touring.
Can you get a hernia from lifting something really heavy? Or from a roof-shaking cough?
Yes. Sometimes. However, according to general surgeon Dr. Wade Larsen, the reasons are more complex and have to do with how our individual anatomy is built to take such stress.
If you have a preexisting weak area near your belly button, for instance, you have a better chance of developing a hernia when you cough violently. Also, a hernia is more likely to occur if you have a long scar from abdominal surgery.
A hernia occurs when fatty tissue or an organ poke through a hole or a weak area in the abdominal wall, often creating a bulge in the belly or groin.
Because the most tell-tale sign of a hernia is a bump in the abdominal area, hernias are sometimes diagnosed by the patient. Dr. Larsen also receives cases referred from family doctors. “A lot of hernias are found by primary care doctors when they do an exam,” he said. “They can feel a small hernia before it’s obvious to the patient.“
Surgery may depend on symptoms
When he meets with a new patient, Dr. Larsen conducts his own exam and consults with the patient about the pros and cons of hernia surgery, he said. Hernias are often not painful and so some do not need immediate surgical attention.
A surgical repair “depends on whether the person has symptoms,” he said. “Is it causing them pain, or are they having some digestive symptoms?” The most common hernia symptoms are stomach discomfort or discomfort in the area of the hernia.
And there are populations with certain risk factors that make them more susceptible to hernia. Groups vulnerable to developing hernias include smokers, diabetics, people who are obese, people on steroids or those with chronic lung disease.
Common types of hernias
The most common types of hernias that require repair by a general surgeon include:
Inguinal hernia — Or what Dr. Larsen calls a groin hernia. More common in men than women, the groin hernia develops because of an inherent weakness in the groin area. “Anatomy is just weaker there,” he said.
Inguinal hernias appear in the lower abdominal wall as a protrusion in the groin area. The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimates one in four men will develop an inguinal hernia at some point in their lives.
Umbilical hernia — A belly button can be the site of a hernia because this area where the umbilical cord enters the body is the thinnest part of the abdominal wall, said Dr. Larsen. Umbilical hernias are more common in infants but can appear at any age, he said.
Ventral hernia — Often called an incisional hernia. Hernias that develop at the site of a preexisting incision do so because the scar tissue has not healed properly. “It doesn’t have to do with the incision closure,” said Dr. Larsen. “It has to do with tissue healing. The tissue is never as strong after it’s repaired.”
An incisional hernia can develop shortly following surgery or years later, he said. Approximately 10 percent of people who’ve had surgery in their abdomen will develop a hernia in their lives, he adds.
Laparoscopy or open surgery
Dr. Larsen patches and closes hernias using either laparoscopy or traditional open surgery, depending on the hernia’s size and location.
Most hernia repairs are outpatient procedures; however, large ventral hernias may require a short stay in the hospital, he said.
Dr. Larsen encourages patients to be as active as they can during their recovery period. “There’s actually data that shows activity has little risk of making hernias come back,” he says. He asks that patients do not lift anything over 20 pounds for two weeks.
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