A systematic review of randomised control trials assessing mesh fixation in open inguinal hernia repair

D L Sanders, S Waydia
Hernia: the Journal of Hernias and Abdominal Wall Surgery 2014, 18 (2): 165-76

PURPOSE: The technique for fixation of mesh has been attributed to adverse patient and surgical outcomes. Although this has been the subject of vigorous debate in laparoscopic hernia repair, the several methods of fixation in open, anterior inguinal hernia repair have seldom been reviewed. The aim of this systematic review was to determine whether there is any difference in patient-based (recurrence, post-operative pain, SSI, quality of life) or surgical outcomes (operative time, length of operative stay) with different fixation methods in open anterior inguinal hernioplasty.

METHODS: A literature search was performed in PubMed, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library databases. Randomised clinical trials assessing more than one method of mesh fixation (or fixation versus no fixation) of mesh in adults (>18 years) in open, anterior inguinal hernia repair, with a minimum of 6-month follow-up and including at least one of the primary outcome measures (recurrence, chronic pain, surgical site infection) were included in the review. Secondary outcomes analysed included post-operative pain (within the first week), quality of life, operative time and length of hospital stay.

RESULTS: Twelve randomised clinical trials, which included 1,992 primary inguinal hernia repairs, were eligible for inclusion. Four studies compared n-butyl-2 cyanoacrylate (NB2C) glues to sutures, two compared self-fixing meshes to sutures, four compared fibrin sealant to sutures, one compared tacks to sutures, and one compared absorbable sutures to non-absorbable sutures. The majority of the trials were rated as low or very low-quality studies. There was no significant difference in recurrence or surgical site infection rates between fixation methods. There was significant heterogeneity in the measurement of chronic pain. Three trials reported significantly lower rates of chronic pain with fibrin sealant or glue fixation compared to sutures. A further three studies reported lower pain rates within the first week with non-suture fixation techniques compared to suture fixation. A significant reduction in operative time, ranging form 6 to 17.9 min with non-suture fixation, was reported in five of the studies. Although infrequently measured, there were no significant differences in length of hospital stay or quality of life between fixation methods.

CONCLUSIONS: There is insufficient evidence to promote fibrin sealant, self-fixing meshes or NB2C glues ahead of suture fixation. However, these products have been shown to be at least substantially equivalent, and moderate-quality RCTs have suggested that both fibrin sealant and NB2C glues may have a beneficial effect on reducing immediate post-operative pain and chronic pain in at-risk populations, such as younger active patients. It will ultimately be up to surgeons and health-care policy makers to decide whether based on the limited evidence these products represent a worthwhile cost for their patients.

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