Incisional hernia in the elderly: risk factors and clinical considerations

Int J Surg. 2014:12 Suppl 2:S164-S169. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2014.08.357. Epub 2014 Aug 23.


Objective: Ventral incisional hernia is a common complication of abdominal surgery. The marked improvements in medical technology and healthcare, lead to an increasing number of elderly patients to take advantage of even complex surgical procedures. The objective of this literature review was to analyze the risk factors for ventral incisional hernia in elderly patients and to identify measures that might decrease the incidence of this complication.

Materials and methods: An analysis of the surgical literature was performed using the search engines EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and PubMed with particular reference to elderly patients using the keywords: abdominal hernia, wound dehiscence, incisional hernia, incidence, trocar site hernia, and hernia prevention.

Results: In our opinion the risk factors for incisional hernia should be separately considered. First those related to the patients and to the abdominal surgery and, in addition, those related to the surgery of the abdominal wall defects.

Conclusions: Reparative surgery of the abdominal wall, to date uniquely characterized by the use of the mesh, should be considered an additional risk factor for the occurrence of incisional hernia. However, the low incarceration risk, the risk of recurrence, the relevant rate of postoperative pain and discomfort and complications associated with mesh repair, as small bowel obstruction, mesh infection, and entero-cutaneous fistula, suggest that the general indication for surgical treatment of incisional hernias, in a symptomatic or oligosymptomatic elderly patients, should be critically reconsidered in order to avoid unnecessary surgery.

Keywords: Elderly patients; Incisional hernia; Risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Wall / surgery*
  • Aged
  • Hernia, Ventral / epidemiology*
  • Hernia, Ventral / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Mesh
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / epidemiology*
  • Surgical Wound Dehiscence / prevention & control
  • Surgical Wound Infection / epidemiology*
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control