From the Journals

Accidental bowel injury occurs in 2% of hernia repairs


Key clinical point: Accidental bowel injuries during ventral hernia increase risk for longer hospital stays, fistula, sepsis, and readmissions.

Major finding: The overall rate of accidental enterotomy during ventral hernia repair was 2%.

Study details: The database review included 5,916 hernia repair patients.

Disclosures: None of the authors reported any financial disclosures.

Source: Krpata D et al. Surg 2018;



Inadvertent bowel injuries that happen during ventral hernia surgery are rare, occurring in only about 2% of these cases, a database review has determined. But patients who experience this kind of injury have a significantly longer length of stay and are at increased risk for fistulas, sepsis, reoperations and readmissions, and even death, David M. Krpata, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic and his colleagues wrote in Surgery.

“When these events occur, the surgeon must decide whether to repair primarily or resect the bowel, proceed with definitive hernia repair with mesh, or abort the procedure and repair primarily the hernia defect,” they wrote. The lack of published studies on this injury prompted the research team to look into prevalence and outcomes in order to offer some data to guide surgical decision making.

The research team examined surgical outcomes among 5,916 patients who underwent a ventral hernia repair during 2013-2017 and were included in the Americas Hernia Society Quality Collaborative, a national hernia surgery database. The database included information from the records of 180 surgeons.

The multivariate analysis controlled for sex, race, elective case, wound status, hernia width, immunosuppressants, subcutaneous flaps, myofascial release, drains, smoking, body mass index, age, diabetes, laparoscopic surgery, mesh type, and concomitant procedure.

Among the cohort, there were 110 full-thickness bowel injuries (1.9%). Three patients also had a bladder injury. Most of the enterotomies were small-bowel injuries (85%); the rest were colon injuries. The majority of patients (64%) underwent a primary repair; 36% required bowel resection. Injuries were most common among patients with larger hernia defects, recurrent repairs, mesh or active infection, a history of abdominal wound infection, and older age.

Patients with the accidental enterotomies were less likely to get a mesh repair (85% vs. 94%). When they did, their surgeons were less likely to use a permanent synthetic barrier–coated mesh and more likely to use biologic mesh, absorbable mesh, and/or uncoated synthetic mesh. But the investigators wrote: “Further data are necessary to address specifically what is the most appropriate mesh to utilize (if any) after an inadvertent enterotomy has occurred and which compartment within the abdominal wall is safest.”

In the fully adjusted analysis, injured patients were no more likely to experience surgical site infections, but they were significantly more likely to develop an enterocutaneous fistula (4% vs. 1%), sepsis (2% vs. 1%), and to die (3% vs 1%) after a bowel injury. They also had a significantly longer length of stay (7 vs. 4 days), and more reoperations (6% vs. 3%). Major wound complication was the most common reason for reoperation (43%) and readmission (58%).

The limitations of this study mostly reflect variables not captured by the database. For example, the tenacity of adhesions and the duration of adhesiolysis are not accounted for. The investigators noted that “patients with an enterotomy likely had more tenacious adhesions, given that an operative time greater than 2 hours had a greater association with an enterotomy (91% vs. 71%).” These patients were more likely to be older and have COPD. In addition, unrecognized enterotomies were not accounted for in the data, but inclusion of those injuries would likely have meant worse outcomes.

“Although definitive hernia repair with mesh can be safely performed, surgeons should consider multiple factors, including type of mesh and location of mesh in the abdominal wall, before proceeding with definitive repair in any case of an enterotomy,” Dr. Krpata and his coauthors concluded.

The investigators reported no financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Krpata et al. Surg. 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2018.04.003

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