Background: Large, complex, posttraumatic and recurrent abdominal hernias present a reconstructive challenge. Multiple techniques have been described to restore the integrity of the abdominal wall, although the indications and applications can be difficult to navigate. The authors propose an algorithm that facilitates the assessment and treatment of secondary large ventral defects.
Methods: The algorithm described involves a systematic approach to abdominal wall reconstruction and was applied to 23 consecutive patients at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. Data collected from the chart review included age, body mass index, mechanism of injury, placement of skin graft and use of resorbable mesh before definitive reconstruction, size of defect, number of tissue expanders placed, length of follow-up, and complications.
Results: There were six female patients and 17 male patients, with an average age of 36 years. The average follow-up was 7 months. Seventeen patients had posttraumatic laparotomies, five patients had aggressive abdominal wall debridement following necrotizing fasciitis, and one patient developed a large abdominal wall hernia following complications from gastric bypass surgery. All patients underwent delayed abdominal wall reconstruction, with an average time to initial reconstruction of 19.5 months. Sixteen patients had no postoperative complications. Seven patients had complications, including one with an enterocutaneous fistula, one with a partial small bowel obstruction, two with seromas, one with a superficial wound infection, and two with recurrent abdominal wall laxity.
Conclusions: The reconstructive ladder for large, complex abdominal hernias is poorly defined. The proposed algorithm provides a systematic staged approach that incorporates available techniques used for delayed reconstruction of the abdominal wall.