Laparotomy closure techniques: Do surgeons follow the latest guidelines? Results of a questionnaire

Int J Surg. 2019 Nov:71:110-116. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2019.09.024. Epub 2019 Sep 24.


Purpose: Incisional hernias after laparotomy are associated with significant morbidity and increased costs. Recent research on prevention of incisional hernia formation suggests that a laparotomy closure technique using a slowly absorbable monofilament suture with small fascial steps and bites in a continuous, single layer with a suture length to wound length (SL/WL) ratio of at least 4:1 is effective in lowering morbidity. Little is known about application of this evidence in daily practice. Therefore, a survey was performed among Dutch surgeons.

Methods: All members of the Dutch Surgical Society were invited to participate in a 24-question online survey on techniques and materials used for abdominal wall closure after midline laparotomy. Subgroup analysis was performed based on surgical subspecialty, type of hospital and experience.

Results: Response rate was 26% (402 respondents), representing 97% of all Dutch surgical departments. More than 90% of participants closed the abdominal wall in a single mass layer, using a slowly absorbable monofilament running suture The SL/WL ratio of >4:1 is practiced by only 35% of participants and preferred suture size was variable among participants. Risk factors for incisional hernia development were generally identified correctly but more than half of the participants were unaware of the incidence and time of occurrence of incisional hernia. Subgroup analysis found that gastrointestinal and oncologic surgeons preferred smaller diameter sutures and higher suture-length to wound-length ratios. Trauma, vascular and pediatric surgeons had lower estimates of incidence of incisional hernia than other subspecialties. Surgeons employed in academic hospitals were more likely to use small fascial steps and smaller suture sizes than their colleagues in non-academic hospitals. Correct estimates of incisional hernia incidence decreased when surgeons perform less than 10 laparotomies annually.

Conclusion: Implementation of the latest evidence regarding closure techniques of the abdominal wall is not widespread. Only 35% of surgeons close the abdominal fascia using a suture length to wound length ratio of 4:1, which is recommended based on the latest evidence. Surgical trainees, gastrointestinal and oncological surgeons are most familiar with the recommended technique and use it in their daily practice. Efforts should be directed at improving spreading of this technique.

Keywords: Abdominal wall closure technique; Guideline; Incisional hernia; Prevention; Quality improvement; Survey.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Wall / surgery
  • Abdominal Wound Closure Techniques / adverse effects
  • Abdominal Wound Closure Techniques / standards*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Incisional Hernia / epidemiology
  • Incisional Hernia / etiology*
  • Laparotomy / adverse effects
  • Laparotomy / standards
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgeons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sutures / adverse effects