Routine ilioinguinal nerve excision in inguinal hernia repairs

George W Dittrick, Kimberly Ridl, Joseph A Kuhn, Todd M McCarty
American Journal of Surgery 2004, 188 (6): 736-40

BACKGROUND: Chronic inguinal neuralgia is one of the most significant complications following inguinal hernia repair. Routine ilioinguinal nerve excision has been proposed as a means to avoid this complication. The purpose of this report is to evaluate the long-term outcomes of neuralgia and paresthesia following routine ilioinguinal nerve excision compared to nerve preservation.

METHODS: Retrospective chart review identified 90 patients who underwent Lichtenstein inguinal hernia repairs with either routine nerve excision (n = 66) or nerve preservation (n = 24). All patients were contacted and data was collected on incidence and duration of postoperative neuralgia and paresthesia. Comparison was made by chi(2) analysis.

RESULTS: The patients with routine neurectomy were similar to the group without neurectomy based on gender (male/female 51/15 vs. 19/5) and mean age (68 +/- 14 vs. 58 +/- 18 years). In the early postoperative period (6 months), the incidence of neuralgia was significantly lower in the neurectomy group versus the nerve preservation group (3% vs. 26%, P <0.001). The incidence of paresthesia in the distribution of the ilioinguinal nerve was not significantly higher in the neurectomy group (18% vs. 4%, P = 0.10). At 1 year postoperatively, the neurectomy patients continued to have a significantly lower incidence of neuralgia (3% vs. 25%, P = 0.003). The incidence of paresthesia was again not significantly higher in the neurectomy group (13% vs. 5%, P = 0.32). In patients with postoperative neuralgia, mean severity scores on a visual analog scale (0-10) were similar in neurectomy and nerve preservation patients at all end points in time (2.0 +/- 0.0 to 2.5 +/- 0.7 vs. 1.0 +/- 0.0 to 2.2 +/- 1.5). In patients with postoperative paresthesia, mean severity scores on a visual analog scale (0-10) were similar in the neurectomy and nerve preservation patients at 1 year (2.5 +/- 2.2 vs. 4.0 +/- 0.0) and 3 years (3.5 +/- 2.9 vs. 4.0 +/- 0.0).

CONCLUSIONS: Routine ilioinguinal neurectomy is associated with a significantly lower incidence of postoperative neuralgia compared to routine nerve preservation with similar severity scores in each group. There is a trend towards increased incidence of subjective paresthesia in patients undergoing routine neurectomy at 1 month, but there is no significant increase at any other end point in time. When performing Lichtenstein inguinal hernia repair, routine ilioinguinal neurectomy is a reasonable option.

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