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Burst abdomen and incisional hernia: a prospective study of 1129 major laparotomies.

Burst abdomen and incisional herniation are continuing problems for the general surgeon. A prospective study was carried out to define the extent of the problem. Over five years from 1975 to 1980 a total of 1129 major laparotomy wounds in adults were assessed at regular intervals for 12 months after operation. There were 19 burst abdomens (1.7%) and 84 incisional hernias (7.4%). The introduction of the mass-closure technique reduced the incidence of burst abdomen from over 3% in 1975 to 0.95% in 1979. It did not, however, improve the rate for incisional hernias, which was 7.6% in 1979. Many factors are associated with incisional herniation: old age, male sex, obesity, bowel surgery, type of suture, chest infection, abdominal distension, and, most important, wound infection. More work is needed to find the ideal method of wound closure, and efforts should be made to eliminate wound infection.

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