Explantation of mesh used in ventral hernia repair occurs in approximately 1 of every 1,000 surgeries, but it’s a “hidden” morbidity because it almost always happens well after the 30- to 90-day window in which postoperative complications are typically reported in most registries and surveillance systems, according to a report in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
Mesh explantation usually occurs 1-3 years after implantation and triples the operative costs of the original ventral hernia repair. The rate of 1 per 1,000 surgeries and the massive increase in cost are comparable with those of occult injury of the common bile duct during cholecystectomy that later requires biliary reconstruction. But mesh explantation doesn’t generate the “profound attention” accorded to bile duct injury, perhaps because it develops much later in the postoperative course.
“It is surprising that mesh complications have not yet prompted similar concern,” said Kristy Kummerow Broman, MD, of the department of surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., and her associates.
Until now, the frequency and cost of mesh explantation after ventral hernia repair in the general population have not been known. To make a reasonable estimate, the investigators constructed a cohort of 619,751 patients using information from inpatient and surgery databases for New York, California, and Florida between 2005 and 2011. Most of these were open procedures (91%), while 9% were laparoscopic.
During a mean follow-up of 3 years, 438 patients (0.7 per 1,000) underwent mesh explantation. This is a clinically significant incidence, and is likely an underestimate because ICD-9 and CPT coding for mesh removal is highly variable, Dr. Broman and her associates said.
This rate, for just three states during 3 years of follow-up, is nearly twice as high as the rate of mesh-related complications voluntarily reported to the FDA in post-marketing surveillance for the entire country during a 7-year period, they noted ().
“It is paramount” that surgeons, manufacturers, and regulatory groups advocate mandatory reporting and “extend the surveillance for at least 1-3 years after implantation of a mesh device,” Dr. Broman and her associates said.
In this study, the median time to explantation was approximately 1 year (range, 2 days to 6 years), and 80% of explantations occurred within 2 years.
The median cumulative operative cost – excluding physician fees, nonsurgical medical costs, and the costs of patient disability and lost productivity – were $21,889 for patients requiring mesh explantation, compared with only $6,579 for those who did not. This finding highlights “the profound long-term implications of implantable devices in abdominal wall reconstruction,” they noted.
To put their findings in context, the investigators reviewed the literature regarding major bile duct injury during cholecystectomy. One large study on cases from 2001 to 2011 found that the rate of biliary reconstruction was comparable with that of explantation, at 0.8 to 1.1 per 1,000. Similarly, reoperation for bile duct injury approximately tripled the operative costs ($9,061 for patients who required biliary reconstruction vs $2,689 for those who didn’t). However, the $21,000 for mesh reoperation far exceeds the $9,000 for biliary reoperation.
This study was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, and the Americas Hernia Society Quality Collaborative. Dr. Broman reported having no relevant financial disclosures; her associates reported ties to Intuitive Surgical Solutions, Bard Davol, Ariste Medical, and Pfizer.