Current options in the management of complex abdominal wall defects.



The management of complex abdominal wall defects is challenging and often requires an individualized strategy with additional measures to minimize morbidity and recurrence. We retrospectively reviewed all patients who underwent reconstruction of complex abdominal wall defects at Emory Hospital by the senior author over a 7-year period. Abdominal hernia defects were categorized into primary, secondary, and tertiary hernias; infection; composite tumor defects; and dehiscence. Charts were queried for comorbidities, surgical technique, and outcome measures such as complications and recurrence. A total of 165 patients included in the series, with an average age of 52 years, and an average body mass index of 38 kg/m. Mesh was used in 81.8% of cases, 77% of those (mesh) being acellular dermal matrices (ADM). Component separation was performed in 75 patients (45.4%). The overall complication rate was 23.6% (39/165) including infection, delayed healing, skin necrosis, and fistulae, and was higher in patients with 2 or more comorbidities and those who required synthetic mesh reconstruction. The hernia recurrence or bulge was observed in 20.6% (34/165), and 29.4% of these patients required an additional, equally complex procedure. Hernia recurrence was significantly associated with a history of previous recurrent hernia, and hypertension (P < 0.04 and P = 0.001, respectively). Recurrence was higher in patients with 2 or more comorbidities (26% vs. 14%, P = 0.022). The recurrence rate was similar for synthetic and ADM reconstructions; however, the complication rates were higher when synthetic mesh was used. Attention to surgical technique, optimization of comorbidities, and the increased use of biologic meshes will minimize the need for operative intervention of complications following reconstruction of complex abdominal wall defects. Components separation and ADM have been very useful additions to the surgical management in these high-risk patients.
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Atlanta Plastic Surgeon