Should VICRYL mesh be used routinely during abdominal wall closure?

No. Because of its properties, it will render an abdomen impossible to re-enter for a minimum of 3 months. Should you have a need to reenter the abdomen within the ten-day window that surgeons have traditionally considered safe for abdominal re-entry, placement of VICRYL® mesh will render the abdomen ‘hostile’ for a minimum of three months.

Is there any literature on the use of VICRYL® mesh as a buttress in hernia repair, as is used for ECF and complex abdominal wall operations?

Yes, they are small series. Look at tissue histology to back up the scientific underpinning of the method:

Owen RM, Love TP, Perez SD, Srinivasan JK, Sharma J, Pollock JD, Haack CI, Sweeney JF, Galloway JR. Definitive surgical treatment of enterocutaneous fistula: outcomes of a 23-year experience. JAMA Surg. 2013 Feb;148(2):118-26. Full-text for Emory users.

Results: A total of 153 patients received operative intervention for ECF. Most ECFs were referred to us from outside institutions (75.2%), high output (52.3%), originating from the small bowel (88.2%), and iatrogenic in cause (66.7%). Successful ECF closure was ultimately achieved in 128 patients (83.7%). Six patients (3.9%) died within 30 days of surgery, and overall 1-year mortality was 15.0%. Postoperative complications occurred in 134 patients, for an overall morbidity rate of 87.6%. Significant risk factors for fistula recurrence were numerous, but postoperative ventilation for longer than 48 hours, organ space surgical site infection, and blood transfusion within 72 hours of surgery carried the most considerable impact (relative risks, 4.87, 4.07, and 3.91, respectively; P < .05). Risk of 1-year mortality was also associated with multiple risk factors, the most substantial of which were postoperative pulmonary and infectious complications. Closure of abdominal fascia was protective against both recurrent ECF and mortality (relative risks, 0.47 and 0.38, respectively; P < .05).

Conclusions: Understanding risk factors both associated with and protective against ECF recurrence and postoperative morbidity and mortality is imperative for appropriate ECF management. Closure of abdominal fascia is of utmost importance, and preventing postoperative complications must be prioritized to optimize patient outcomes.

Burns FA, Heywood EG, Challand CP, Lee MJ. Is there a role for prophylactic mesh in abdominal wall closure after emergency laparotomy? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Hernia. 2020 Jun;24(3):441-447.

Results: 332 studies were screened for eligibility, 29 full texts were reviewed and 2 non-randomised studies were included. Both studies were biased due to confounding factors, as closure technique was based on patient risk factors for incisional hernia. Both studies found significantly fewer incisional hernias in the mesh groups [3.2% vs 28.6% (p < 0.001) and 5.9% vs 33.3% (p = 0.0001)]. A meta-analysis of incisional hernia risk favoured prophylactic mesh closure [risk ratio 0.15 (95% CI 0.6-0.35, p < 0.001)]. Neither study found an association between mesh and infection or enterocutaneous fistula.

Conclusion: This review found that there are limited data to assess the effect or safety profile of prophylactic mesh in the emergency laparotomy setting. The current data cannot reliably assess the use of mesh due to confounding factors, and a randomised controlled trial is required to address this important clinical question.

See also: Management of enterocutaneous fistulas

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