Obturator hernia: the Mayo Clinic experience

Hernia. 2012 Jun;16(3):315-9. doi: 10.1007/s10029-011-0895-9. Epub 2011 Dec 3.


Background: Obturator herniae (OH) are rare, with nonspecific signs and symptoms, and diagnosis is usually delayed until laparotomy. The added benefit of preoperative diagnosis with computed tomography (CT) remains unclear.

Methods: We reviewed the clinical characteristics and outcomes of OH repairs performed at our institution over a 58-year period. Outcomes were compared between patients who did or did not have a preoperative CT.

Results: Between 1950 and 2008, 30 patients (median age 82 years, 29 women) underwent OH repair. The most common presenting signs and symptoms were bowel obstruction (63%), abdominal/groin pain (57%), and a palpable lump (10%). The pathognomonic Howship-Romberg sign was present in 11 patients (37%). The diagnosis was made preoperatively in nine patients: clinically in one (3%) and with CT in eight (27%). Nineteen patients (63%) presented emergently. Primary and prosthetic repair were performed in 23 (77%) and seven (23%) patients, respectively. Small-bowel resection was performed in 14 patients (47%). Perioperative morbidity (30%) and mortality (10%) rates were high. Patients with a preoperative CT were less likely to develop a postoperative complication of any type [odds ratio (OR) 0.8, P = 0.04]; however, time to operation, length of stay, need for bowel resection, and mortality rate did not differ (P = NS). No recurrences were detected at a median follow-up of 2 years (range 0-55).

Conclusion: Although CT imaging provides an excellent means of preoperative diagnosis, suggestive signs and symptoms in a "skinny old lady" should prompt immediate operative intervention without delay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Hernia, Obturator / complications
  • Hernia, Obturator / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hernia, Obturator / surgery*
  • Herniorrhaphy
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology*
  • Intestine, Small / pathology
  • Intestine, Small / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Preoperative Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Thinness / complications
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*