Damage control laparotomy for life-threatening abdominal conditions has gained wide acceptance in the management of exsanguinating trauma patients as well as septic patients with acute abdomen. Survivors considered too ill to undergo definitive abdominal wall closure are temporized, often with skin grafting on granulated viscera. These maneuvers compromise the integrity of the anterior abdominal wall and result in a subset of patients with loss of abdominal domain and massive, debilitating ventral hernias. A retrospective review was conducted of 21 such patients (16 men, five women) who underwent elective abdominal wall reconstruction at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania between November of 1998 and October of 2000. The purpose of this study was to report the authors’ experience with these complex abdominal wall reconstructions. A double-layer, subfascial Vicryl mesh buttress was used in all repairs to aid in reestablishing abdominal wall integrity. The mean hernia size was 813 cm2 (range, 75 to 1836 cm2), and the average interval to definitive repair was 24.4 months (range, 3 weeks to 11 years). Mean follow-up was 13.5 months (range, 1 month to 40 months). Twenty patients (95 percent) had successful ventral hernia repair. Four patients with massive hernias (924 to 1836 cm2) required submuscular Marlex mesh implantation. Two patients (10 percent) developed abdominal compartment syndrome that required surgical decompression. One patient (5 percent) developed an incisional hernia at a prior colostomy site. Four patients (19 percent) had superficial skin dehiscence that healed secondarily with daily wound care. There were no mesh infections. In most cases, successful single-stage repair of large ventral hernias following damage control laparotomy can be achieved using a subfascial Vicryl mesh buttress in combination with other established reconstructive techniques. Massive defects exceeding 900 cm2 typically require permanent mesh implantation to achieve fascial closure and to minimize the risk of postoperative abdominal compartment syndrome and recurrent herniation. This technique represents an improved solution to a complicated problem and optimizes the aesthetic and functional outcome for these debilitated patients.
From the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Received for publication August 1, 2002;
revised November 13, 2002.
David W. Low, M.D.
Division of Plastic Surgery
University of Pennsylvania Health System
10 Penn Tower
3400 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 19104