Examination: Hernias

Hernia examinations are relatively common in clinical assessments as patients with hernias frequently have stable signs over several months whilst awaiting surgery. It is important to know your anatomy and the anatomical landmarks!

OSCE-Aid Tips
  • Mid inguinal point = ASIS to pubis symphysis (femoral artery
  • Midpoint of inguinal ligament = ASIS to pubic tubercle (deep inguinal ring: 1 to 2cm above femoral pulse)
  • Inguinal hernia = above and medial to pubic tubercle
  • Femoral hernia = below and lateral to pubic tubercle

  • WIPER: wash hands, introduce yourself, permission, expose patient (waist to knees), reposition
  • Chaperone - if appropriate
  • Pain – ask if patient is in any pain?

  • Look around bed – vomit bowls, pain medication
  • Look at patient – comfortable? In pain? Distended abdomen?
  • Ask the patient to stand – look for any lumps or scars on abdomen or groin
  • Lumps – shape, size, site, colour

Palpate (with patient standing or lying)
  • Lump – feel for temperature, consistency, size, tenderness
  • Cough impulse - ask patient to cough and watch for cough impulse. Ask patient to cough again whilst feeling over lump – if lump expands against your hand, there is a positive cough impulse
  • Reduce
    • Ask patient if they are able to reduce the lump themselves
    • Check to see if lump is reducible
    • Inguinal area: once reduced, place fingers over deep inguinal ring – if hernia remains reduced = indirect inguinal hernia
    • If hernia protrudes = direct inguinal hernia

  • Auscultate over lump to see if you can hear bowel sounds. You may hear femoral bruits in groin area.

Complete your examination
  • To complete examination, exam the abdomen – distension or any signs of peritonitis? [Beware of obstructed/strangulated bowel]
  • Thank the patient and offer to help them re-dress
  • Wash hands


Notes: other types of hernia


  • These are common, and are often congenital.
  • Small ones usually spontaneously close by 2yrs. Larger ones/non-closing ones are usually operated on when the child is around 3-4yrs old.
  • Can occur later in life (umbilicus is a 'weak spot') - often appear later in the elderly and women who have given birth.


  • Very common post-operatively.


  • Found along edge of rectus abdominus.


  • Relatively more common in women esp elderly.
  • Hernia sac protrudes through obturator foramen. More likely to be symptomatic rather than cause a visible mass.


  • Occurs between the umbilicus and the xiphisternum (in the midline).
  • Often composed of fat/omentum - rarely contain bowel. Can often be painless and easily reduced.


written by: scarlet_nazarian, first posted on: 11/10/2016; 22:38

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ss.afridi says...
Hi Scarlet!!
This is quite informative and helpful... In OSCE station now they will not ask directly to examine specific part of system, they will make a scenario and then command will be "examine patient" like " A 53 years old patient on 8th post operative day of midline laparotomy for left hemicolectomy complains of sudden right lower chest pain, examine the patient." Now how will you proceed in this case?
POSTED ON: 24/12/16, 08:30
Joel_cunningham says...

Thanks very much for getting in touch. It's always great to hear when students and doctors find our resources useful.

The assessment of a post-operative patient does sound like a great idea for an OSCE revision resource - I will pass on your thoughts to Dr Nazarian and see what we can do.

Best wishes,

POSTED ON: 28/12/16, 11:12

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