Background: Chronic pain was believed to be a recognized but infrequent complication after inguinal hernia repair. Evidence suggests that patients with chronic pain place a considerable burden on health services. However, few scientific data on chronic pain after this common elective operation are available.
Objectives: To review the frequency of chronic pain and to discuss etiological theories and current treatment options for patients with chronic post herniorrhaphy pain.
Materials and methods: All studies of postoperative pain after inguinal hernia repair with a minimum follow-up period of 3 months, published between 1987 and 2000, were critically reviewed.
Results and discussion: The frequency of chronic pain after inguinal hernia repair was found to be as high as 54%, much more than previously reported. Quality of life of these patients is affected. Chronic pain is reported less often after laparoscopic and mesh repairs. Recurrent hernia repair, preoperative pain, day case surgery, delayed onset of symptoms, and high pain scores in the first week after surgery, however, were identified to be risk factors for the development of chronic pain. Definition of chronic pain was not explicit in the majority of the reviewed studies. Accurate evaluation of the frequency of chronic pain will require standardization of definition and methods of assessment. Prospective studies are required to define the role of risk factors identified in this review.