Introduction: The aim of this study is to ascertain the accuracy of diagnostic ultrasound in the assessment of the occult abdominal and groin herniae. The authors have previously demonstrated its efficacy in diagnosing the type of clinical groin herniae but occult herniae provide a further diagnostic problem.
Patients and methods: A total of 113 consecutive patients were referred prospectively for ultrasound examinations with clinically suspected occult herniae. All positive scans were offered surgery whilst the negative results were offered further imaging or other diagnostic tests depending on the clinical criteria. The end point for negative scans was based on 18-month follow-up or resolution of symptoms.
Results: Overall, 59 scans showed positive results for herniae and 56 of these had surgery. In the other three patients, two refused an operation, and one had no hernia detected at operation. In the remaining 57 scans, ultrasound offered alternative soft tissue diagnoses in 23 patients and surgical/endoscopic diagnoses accounted for a further 8 patients.
Conclusions: Ultrasound offered a diagnosis for the symptomology in 82 patients (70.6%) of which 59 were herniae. The positive predictive value for hernia is 98.3%. Twenty-six patients with no diagnosis or confirmation of herniae on follow-up showed symptom resolution in 22 cases, and four patients were treated by the pain clinic.