Umbilical hernia repair in the presence of cirrhosis and ascites: results of a survey and review of the literature

Hernia. 2009 Oct;13(5):461-8. doi: 10.1007/s10029-009-0535-9. Epub 2009 Aug 4.


Purpose: Umbilical hernias are common in cirrhotics, yet, their management poses several challenges. The objective of this paper was to evaluate the indications, selection criteria, and technical aspects of umbilical hernia repair in patients with cirrhosis and ascites.

Methods: An extensive review of the literature since 1980 was performed. A survey was also conducted to obtain expert consensus to supplement any available conclusions from the literature.

Results: Nineteen surgeons (45%) responded to the survey. For asymptomatic hernias, all would consider hernia repair in Child's A cirrhosis, but not in more advanced disease, whereas the vast majority would consider the repair of complicated hernias. This seems to reflect the respondents' higher estimates of morbidity and mortality with more advanced liver disease. However, because the recent literature demonstrates much lower morbidity and mortality than in the past, many authors now advocate early elective repair. In addition, uncontrolled ascites appear to be strongly predictive of hernia recurrence (relative risk [RR] 8.5; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.7-26.9).

Conclusions: While acknowledging the limitations of this study, it appears that the early repair of umbilical hernias in patients with cirrhosis and ascites is safer than it was in the past and can be considered for selected patients. This may avoid increased morbidity and mortality associated with urgent repair later on. The control of ascites is critical to a successful outcome. Urgent repair of umbilical hernia in cirrhotic patients is indicated when complications develop.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ascites / complications*
  • Health Surveys
  • Hernia, Umbilical / complications
  • Hernia, Umbilical / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Patient Selection