Long-term follow-up of a randomized controlled trial of suture versus mesh repair of incisional hernia

Jacobus W A Burger, Roland W Luijendijk, Wim C J Hop, Jens A Halm, Emiel G G Verdaasdonk, Johannes Jeekel
Annals of Surgery 2004, 240 (4): 578-83; discussion 583-5

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the best treatment of incisional hernia, taking into account recurrence, complications, discomfort, cosmetic result, and patient satisfaction.

BACKGROUND: Long-term results of incisional hernia repair are lacking. Retrospective studies and the midterm results of this study indicate that mesh repair is superior to suture repair. However, many surgeons are still performing suture repair.

METHODS: Between 1992 and 1998, a multicenter trial was performed, in which 181 eligible patients with a primary or first-time recurrent midline incisional hernia were randomly assigned to suture or mesh repair. In 2003, follow-up was updated.

RESULTS: Median follow-up was 75 months for suture repair and 81 months for mesh repair patients. The 10-year cumulative rate of recurrence was 63% for suture repair and 32% for mesh repair (P < 0.001). Abdominal aneurysm (P = 0.01) and wound infection (P = 0.02) were identified as independent risk factors for recurrence. In patients with small incisional hernias, the recurrence rates were 67% after suture repair and 17% after mesh repair (P = 0.003). One hundred twenty-six patients completed long-term follow-up (median follow-up 98 months). In the mesh repair group, 17% suffered a complication, compared with 8% in the suture repair group (P = 0.17). Abdominal pain was more frequent in suture repair patients (P = 0.01), but there was no difference in scar pain, cosmetic result, and patient satisfaction.

CONCLUSIONS: Mesh repair results in a lower recurrence rate and less abdominal pain and does not result in more complications than suture repair. Suture repair of incisional hernia should be abandoned.

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