Personalized Care in Hernia Repair at St. John’s Riverside Hospital: Q&A with Har Chi Lau, MD, FACS

By Hillary Eames
Monday, January 20, 2020

Board-certified surgeon Har Chi Lau, MD, FACS, Chief of General Surgery at St. John’s Riverside Hospital, tailors each hernia repair procedure to his patients’ individual needs.

Q: You’ve said before that hernia repair is similar to cancer care, in that where a patient first receives treatment is important. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

A. Patients’ outcomes are better when physicians approach their concerns earlier, and with hernia repair, the first surgery a patient receives has to be the best. If a surgeon does not perform a high-quality surgery the first time a patient sees them, it can violate surrounding tissues and make any follow-up surgeries more difficult. I’ve been performing hernia repair surgery for more than 20 years, and in that time I’ve fine-tuned my surgical technique to meet each patient’s individual needs and ensure their surgery is excellent.

Q: What types of surgery can you provide to hernia repair patients at St. John’s Riverside Hospital, and how do they benefit each patient?

A. We perform laparoscopic, robotic and open surgery. Laparoscopic or robotic hernia repair carries the same benefits as other minimally invasive surgeries, and it also allows the surgeon to repair hernias without entering the patient’s abdominal cavity. We are also able to place mesh between muscle tissue planes without destroying any surrounding tissue. However, some patients benefit from traditional surgery as opposed to robotic or laparoscopic procedures.

With robotic surgery, the table is rotated and the patient’s body is put into different positions. The patient may be placed with their head down for some of the surgery, and that can put stress on the pulmonary system. If a patient has a respiratory condition such as COPD, open surgery may be a better option.

One form of surgery is not inherently superior to the others. Instead, we approach each patient and procedure as unique. We determine what will provide the best outcome for each patient and perform surgery accordingly.

Q: How have you learned to tailor your practice to each individual patient?

A. I will use an analogy for comparison. Someone with a vast experience in writing will understand the subtle differences between word choices and writing styles, and they will know how to tailor their writing to communicate a specific message to a specific audience. Their experience gives them that ability.

I have been performing hernia repair surgery since I completed my residency at Allegheny University Hospital in 1998. With that level of experience, I have learned how to fine-tune my surgical practice based on each individual patient and procedure.

Q: Why do you believe St. John’s Riverside Hospital is the best place for hernia repair patients to receive care?

A. In addition to my years of experience, I also practice with several other skilled physicians. Our center has performed more than 11,000 minimally invasive hernia repair procedures, and we also provide plastic surgery, pain management and rehabilitation services to our hernia repair patients.

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