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Closure of burst abdomen after major gastrointestinal operations--comparison of different surgical techniques and later development of incisional hernia.

OBJECTIVE: To find out the incidence of incisional hernia in patients who had resuture of a burst abdomen and to compare different methods of wound closure and the development of incisional hernia.

DESIGN: Retrospective study.

SETTING: University hospital, Norway.

SUBJECTS: 78 adults patients who had their burst abdomens resutured between January 1986 and December 1995.

INTERVENTIONS: Five different methods were used to close the burst abdomen: interrupted or continuous sutures with or without retention sutures, or retention sutures alone.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Incisional hernia after at least one year follow-up.

RESULTS: Postoperative mortality was 14% (11/78), and 53 patients were followed up for at least a year. Incisional hernias developed in 43% (23/53) of the patients. When interrupted sutures were used (with or without retention sutures) 34% (13/38) of patients developed incisional hernias compared with 6/10 when the wound was closed with a continuous suture. Retention sutures did not reduce the incidence of incisional hernia.

CONCLUSIONS: Incisional hernia is a common complication after resuture of a burst abdomen. We found no significant differences in the incidence of incisional hernias when continuous and interrupted techniques were compared. Retention sutures do not reduce the incidence of incisional hernias. There is still a need for refinements of the technique of closure of a burst abdomen.

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