Background: Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGBP) has been shown to be a safe and effective alternative to traditional "open" RYGBP. Although lack of postoperative adhesions is one advantage of minimally invasive surgery, this is also responsible for a higher incidence of internal hernias. These patients often present with intermittent abdominal pain or small bowel obstruction with completely normal contrast radiographs.
Methods: Data was obtained concurrently on 2,000 consecutive patients from February 1998 to October 2001 and analyzed retrospectively. Radiographs, when available, were interpreted by both the operative surgeon and radiologist before intervention.
Results: 66 internal hernias occurred in 63 patients, an incidence of 3.1%. 1 patient presented with a traditional adhesive band and small bowel obstruction. 20% of patients had normal preoperative small bowel series and/or CT scans. The site of internal hernias varied: 44 - mesocolon; 14 - jejunal mesentery; 5 - Petersen's space. Although most patients were symptomatic, 5% were incidental findings at the time of another surgical procedure. 5 patients required open repair. 6 patients presented with perforation either at the time of diagnosis or as a result of manipulation of the bowel. There was 1 death associated with complications of the internal hernia. The negative exploration rate was 2%.
Conclusion: Internal hernias are more common following laparoscopic RYGBP than "open" RYGBP. Contrast radiographs alone are unreliable in ruling out this diagnosis. Early intervention is crucial; most repairs can be performed laparoscopically. This diagnosis should be entertained in all patients with unexplained abdominal pain following laparoscopic RYGBP. Meticulous closure of all potential internal hernia sites is essential to limit this potentially lethal complication.