Tonia Brock had been battling a bulge in her abdomen for more than a dozen years. But the lump in the Knox County woman’s abdomenTonia Brock-hernia wasn’t due to weight gain or obesity, it was a large, multiply recurrent hernia. A hernia is weakness or hole in the abdominal muscles that allows an organ or tissue to protrude through the weakened area.
Brock says she developed her first hernia several years after having an ileostomy, or surgically created diversion of the intestines installed in her abdominal wall to remove body waste. Brock needed the ileostomy when her diseased colon was removed at age 29.
Brock’s hernia was surgically repaired for the first time in 1998, but because of infection the hernia eventually reoccurred. It was the beginning of a long string of hernia surgeries for her. To date, the now 71-year old, has undergone at least nine hernia repairs, without a permanent resolution.
“I’d had many, many hernia surgeries,” explains Brock. “Each time they fix it, I’ll be fine for a year or two, and then the hernia starts to bulge out again.”
In recent years, Brock’s hernia grew uncomfortably large and had such a negative effect on her quality of life that she seldom left her home.
“It was like my whole stomach was a hernia. It looked like I was carrying a big watermelon around,” remembers Brock. “It really impacted my life.”
Brock is one of a growing number of people with a hernia so omplex it can’t be repaired by traditional techniques. Dr. Joel “Trey” Bradley and Dr. Kristopher Williams specialize in abdominal wall reconstruction for complex hernia patients like Brock, as well as abdominal catastrophes caused by disease or trauma such as a gunshot wound or auto accident. The physicians joined Premier Surgical in Knoxville this summer.
The pair first teamed up in fellowship training at the nationally-known Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. There, Dr. Bradley and Dr. Williams learned to repair the most complex hernias using advanced techniques. The repairs can be very challenging and often takes many hours.
The surgeons also worked extensively to research and identify key factors that cause the failure of some hernia repairs. This expertise is applied in their daily practice at Premier Surgical.
“Hernia repairs fail for a reason,” explains Dr. Bradley. “It may be due to infection, weak tissue, or technical aspects of the previous repair, or the patient’s own health factors.”
Dr. Bradley says smoking, obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, poor nutrition and previous wound infections are factors that can diminish the success of hernia surgery.
Dr. Bradley and Dr. Williams work closely with their complex hernia patients before surgery to prepare them for a successful and lifelong functional hernia repair.
“We counsel our patients preoperatively to ensure they do everything possible to lower their known risk factors,” says Dr. Williams. “They must work to stop smoking, control their diabetes, ensure proper nutrition and lose weight prior to such a major surgical undertaking.”
The preparation is worth it for people like Tonia Brock, whose complex hernia was recently repaired by Drs. Bradley and Williams.
“I’m hopeful this is the last hernia surgery I’ll ever need. I’m excited about having a much better quality of life now,” says Brock. “I am so pleased and thankful to God for Dr. Bradley and Dr. Williams.”
Dr. Joel “Trey” Bradley is based at Premier Surgical’s Fort Sanders Regional office, while Dr. Kristopher Williams is located at Premier Surgical at Parkwest Medical Center.