Purpose: Diastasis or divarication of the rectus abdominus muscles describes the separation of the recti, usually as a result of the linea alba thinning and stretching. This review examines whether divaricated recti should be repaired and tries to establish if the inherent co-morbidity associated with surgical correction outweighs the benefits derived.
Methods: EMBASE, MEDLINE and the Cochrane library were searched for ('divarication' OR 'diastasis') AND ('recti' OR 'rectus'). A standard data extraction form was used to extract data from each text. Due to the lack of randomised control trials, meta-analysis was not possible.
Results: Seven studies report that patient satisfaction was high following surgery. The most common complication seen was the development of a seroma. Other common complications included haematomas, minor skin necrosis, wound infections, dehiscence, post-operative pain, nerve damage and recurrence, the rate of which may be as high as 40%.
Conclusions: Further studies are required to compare laparoscopic and open abdominoplasty techniques. Patients and physicians should be advised that correction is largely cosmetic, and although divarications may be unsightly they do not carry the same risks of actual herniation. Progressive techniques have resulted in risk reduction with no associated surgical mortality. However, the outcomes may be imperfect, with unsightly scarring, local sepsis and the possibility of recurrence.