Purpose: A large number of unrepaired inguinal hernias is expected in sub-Saharan Africa where late presentation often results in incarceration, strangulation, or giant scrotal hernias. However, no representative population-based data are available to quantify the prevalence of hernias. We present data on groin masses in Sierra Leone to estimate prevalence, barriers to care, and associated disability.
Methods: A cluster randomized, cross-sectional household survey of 75 clusters of 25 households with 2 respondents each was designed to calculate the prevalence of and disability caused by groin hernias in Sierra Leone using a verbal head-to-toe examination. Barriers to hernia repairs were assessed by asking participants the main reason for delay in surgical care.
Results: Information was obtained from 3,645 respondents in 1,843 households, of which 1,669 (46%) were male and included in the study. In total, 117 males or 7.01% (95% CI 5.64-8.38) reported a soft or reducible swelling likely representing a hernia with four men having two masses. Of the 93.2% who indicated the need for health care, only 22.2% underwent a procedure, citing limited funds (59.0%) as the major barrier to care. On disability assessment, 20.2% were not able to work secondary to the groin swelling.
Conclusions: The results indicate groin masses represent a major burden for the male population in Sierra Leone. Improving access to surgical care for adult patients with hernias and early intervention for children will be vital to address the burden of disease and prevent complications or limitations of daily activity.