Background: Both mesh and suture repair are used for the treatment of umbilical hernias, but for smaller umbilical hernias (diameter 1-4 cm) there is little evidence whether mesh repair would be beneficial. In this study we aimed to investigate whether use of a mesh was better in reducing recurrence compared with suture repair for smaller umbilical hernias.
Methods: We did a randomised, double-blind, controlled multicentre trial in 12 hospitals (nine in the Netherlands, two in Germany, and one in Italy). Eligible participants were adults aged at least 18 years with a primary umbilical hernia of diameter 1-4 cm, and were randomly assigned (1:1) intraoperatively to either suture repair or mesh repair. In the first 3 years of the inclusion period, blocked randomisation (of non-specified size) was achieved by an envelope randomisation system; after this time computer-generated randomisation was introduced. Patients, investigators, and analysts were masked to the allocated treatment, and participants were stratified by hernia size (1-2 cm and >2-4 cm). At study initiation, all surgeons were invited to training sessions to ensure they used the same standardised techniques for suture repair or mesh repair. Patients underwent physical examinations at 2 weeks, and 3, 12, and 24-30 months after the operation. The primary outcome was the rate of recurrences of the umbilical hernia after 24 months assessed in the modified intention-to-treat population by physical examination and, in case of any doubt, abdominal ultrasound. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00789230.
Findings: Between June 21, 2006, and April 16, 2014, we randomly assigned 300 patients, 150 to mesh repair and 150 to suture repair. The median follow-up was 25·1 months (IQR 15·5-33·4). After a maximum follow-up of 30 months, there were fewer recurrences in the mesh group than in the suture group (six [4%] in 146 patients vs 17 [12%] in 138 patients; 2-year actuarial estimates of recurrence 3·6% [95% CI 1·4-9·4] vs 11·4% (6·8-18·9); p=0·01, hazard ratio 0·31, 95% CI 0·12-0·80, corresponding to a number needed to treat of 12·8). The most common postoperative complications were seroma (one [<1%] in the suture group vs five [3%] in the mesh group), haematoma (two [1%] vs three [2%]), and wound infection (one [<1%] vs three [2%]). There were no anaesthetic complications or postoperative deaths.
Interpretation: This is the first study showing high level evidence for mesh repair in patients with small hernias of diameter 1-4 cm. Hence we suggest mesh repair should be used for operations on all patients with an umbilical hernia of this size.
Funding: Department of Surgery, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
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