Conference Coverage

Two novel approaches for infected ventral hernia mesh



– Deep surgical site infections after retrorectus ventral hernia repair do not necessarily require mesh excision, according to Cleveland Clinic investigators.

Dr. Dominykas Burneikis

Dr. Dominykas Burneikis

When infected mesh is removed, however, there’s a novel approach that avoids the pitfalls of both immediate and staged abdominal wall reconstruction, according to a second team from the Georgetown University, Washington.

The two approaches were offered at the annual clinical congress of the American College of Surgery as alternatives to usual care. Infected ventral hernia mesh is a well-known headache for general surgeons, and management isn’t standardized. Surgeons are keenly alert for new approaches to improve outcomes; the presenters said they hoped their talks would help.

The work “is really pushing this forward, and giving us new data to manage a really vexing problem,” said an audience member.

Almost 80% salvageable

Infected meshes are usually removed, but the Cleveland Clinic investigators found that that’s often not necessary.

They reviewed 905 elective ventral hernia repairs at the clinic with synthetic sublay mesh in the retrorectus space. The median hernia width was about 15 cm, and the implanted mesh – usually medium- or heavy-weight polypropylene – had a mean area of 900 cm2, “so these were big hernias with a lot of mesh. [Patients] often come to us as a last resort because they’ve been told no elsewhere,” said lead investigator Dominykas Burneikis, MD.

Twenty-four patients (2.7%) developed deep surgical site infections below the anterior rectus fascia. Instead of returning to the OR for new mesh, the team opened, drained, and debrided the wounds, and patients received antibiotics plus negative pressure wound therapy.

Those measures were enough for all but one patient. Mesh was generally found to be granulating well into surrounding tissue, so it was left completely intact in 19 cases (79%), and just trimmed a bit in four others. One man had an excision after his skin flap died and the hernia recurred. At 8 months, 11 patients were completely healed, and 12 had granulating wounds with no visible mesh. There were no cutaneous fistulas.

In short, “we had an 80% mesh salvage rate at 8 months, [which] led us to conclude that most synthetic mesh infections after retrorectus sublay repair do not require explanation,” Dr. Burneikis said.

A hybrid approach

When infected mesh does need to come out, abdominal wall reconstruction is either done in the same procedure or months later. Immediate reconstruction generally means operating in a contaminated field, with subsequent rates of wound infection of up to 48%. Delayed closure, meanwhile, means long-term wound care and temporary hernia recurrence, among other problems.

The Georgetown team reported good outcomes with a hybrid approach that combines the benefits of both procedures while avoiding their pitfalls. In the first step, mesh is removed, the abdominal wall debrided, fistulas taken down, and cultures obtained, explained lead investigator and surgery resident Kieranjeet Nijhar, MD.

The wound is temporarily closed with a sterile plastic liner under negative pressure, and patients are taken to the floor for IV antibiotics based on culture results. Three days later, after the infection has been knocked down, the patient is returned to the OR for debridement to healthy tissue and definitive reconstruction with biologic mesh. It’s all done during the same hospitalization.

Dr. Nijhar reviewed 53 cases at Georgetown since 2009. Patients were a mean age of 58 years, with an average body mass index of 35.1 kg/m2. Infected mesh was most commonly underlain or retrorectus; mean defect size was 206 cm2. Patients spent an average of 11 days in the hospital.

During a mean follow-up of about 9 months, 17 patients (32%) had surgical site problems – infection, dehiscence, hematoma, or seroma – and hernia recurred in six (11.3%); the results compare favorably with especially immediate reconstruction. As in prior studies, higher age and bridge repair were associated with recurrence and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection with surgical site problems.

“We propose this as a potential alternative for” repairs of ventral hernias with infected mesh, Dr. Nijhar said.

Dr. Nijhar and Dr. Burneikis had no relevant disclosures. There was no external funding for the work.

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