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The Great Debate: Mesh or No Mesh in Contaminated Hernia Repairs?

American Surgeon 2024 May 22
Abdominal hernia surgeries are commonly performed with many different approaches, and mesh utilization has become a cornerstone in hernia repair, ensuring durable outcomes with minimal recurrence risk. However, managing contaminated hernia repairs presents unique challenges due to the heightened risks of mesh infection. Recent advancements in lightweight macroporous polypropylene meshes offer promising solutions. Studies have highlighted the superiority of macroporous polypropylene meshes compared to primary suture repair and other mesh types in terms of reduced surgical site infection rates and lower hernia recurrence rates. Moreover, utilizing macroporous polypropylene mesh in the retrorectus plane is associated with a favorable salvage rate, underscoring its efficacy in contaminated hernia repairs. At the same time, contrary evidence suggests higher postoperative complications with mesh use in settings of clean-contaminated or contaminated fields. Most significant complications are increased infection rates and similar recurrence rates compared to mesh-free repairs. New synthetic mesh that is being marketed as having better outcomes than other types of mesh and potentially primary repair need to be carefully assessed as biologic mesh once used to also be touted as the mesh to use in such fields, but more research is showing higher complication rates. The risk of infection and consequent morbidity might outweigh the benefit of less recurrence risk with mesh use. Further research, including prospective studies with long-term follow-up, is warranted to elucidate optimal hernia repair strategies in contaminated fields and inform evidence-based practice guidelines.

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