COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Complex abdominal wall reconstruction: a comparison of flap and mesh closure

S J Mathes, P M Steinwald, R D Foster, W Y Hoffman, J P Anthony
Annals of Surgery 2000, 232 (4): 586-96
10998657

OBJECTIVE: To analyze a series of patients treated for recurrent or chronic abdominal wall hernias and determine a treatment protocol for defect reconstruction.

SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: Complex or recurrent abdominal wall defects may be the result of a failed prior attempt at closure, trauma, infection, radiation necrosis, or tumor resection. The use of prosthetic mesh as a fascial substitute or reinforcement has been widely reported. In wounds with unstable soft tissue coverage, however, the use of prosthetic mesh poses an increased risk for extrusion or infection, and vascularized autogenous tissue may be required to achieve herniorrhaphy and stable coverage.

METHODS: Patients undergoing abdominal wall reconstruction for 106 recurrent or complex defects (104 patients) were retrospectively analyzed. For each patient, hernia etiology, size and location, average time present, technique of reconstruction, and postoperative results, including recurrence and complication rates, were reviewed. Patients were divided into two groups based on defect components: Type I defects with intact or stable skin coverage over hernia defect, and Type II defects with unstable or absent skin coverage over hernia defect. The defects were also assigned to one of the following zones based on primary defect location to assist in the selection and evaluation of their treatment: Zone 1A, upper midline; Zone IB, lower midline; Zone 2, upper quadrant; Zone 3, lower quadrant.

RESULTS: A majority of the defects (68%) were incisional hernias. Of 50 Type I defects, 10 (20%) were repaired directly, 28 (56%) were repaired with mesh only, and 12 (24%) required flap reconstruction. For the 56 Type II defects reconstructed, flaps were used in the majority of patients (n = 48; 80%). The overall complication and recurrence rates for the series were 29% and 8%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: For Type I hernias with stable skin coverage, intraperitoneal placement of Prolene mesh is preferred, and has not been associated with visceral complications or failure of hernia repair. For Type II defects, the use of flaps is advisable, with tensor fascia lata representing the flap of choice, particularly in the lower abdomen. Rectus advancement procedures may be used for well-selected midline defects of either type. The concept of tissue expansion to increase both the fascial dimensions of the flap and zones safely reached by flap transposition is introduced. Overall failure is often is due to primary closure under tension, extraperitoneal placement of mesh, flap use for inappropriate zone, or technical error in flap use. With use of the proposed algorithm based on defect analysis and location, abdominal wall reconstruction has been achieved in 92% of patients with complex abdominal defects.

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