Treatment of small (< 2 cm) umbilical hernias: guidelines and current trends from the Herniamed Registry

Hernia. 2021 Jun;25(3):605-617. doi: 10.1007/s10029-020-02345-w. Epub 2020 Nov 25.


Introduction: Based on meta-analyses and registry data, the European Hernia Society and the Americas Hernia Society have published guidelines for the treatment of umbilical hernias. These recommend that umbilical hernia should generally be treated by placing a non-absorbable (permanent) flat mesh into the preperitoneal space with an overlap of the hernia defect of 3 cm. Suture repair should only be considered for small hernia defects of less than 1 cm. Hence, the use of a mesh in general is subject to controversial debate particularly for small (< 2 cm) umbilical hernias. This analysis of data from the Herniamed Registry now presents data on the treatment of small (< 2 cm) umbilical hernias over the past 10 years.

Methods: Herniamed is an Internet-based hernia registry in which hospitals and surgical centers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland can voluntarily enter data on their routine hernia operations. Between 2010 and 2019, data were entered into the Herniamed Registry by 737 hospitals/surgery centers on a total of 111,765 patients with primary elective umbilical hernia repair. The prospective data were analyzed retrospectively for each year and statistically compared. Due to a higher number of cases, the years 2013 and 2019 were compared for the perioperative outcome and the years 2013 and 2018 for 1-year follow-up. Fisher's exact test was applied for unadjusted analyses between the years, using a significance level of alpha = 5%. For post hoc tests of single categories, a Bonferroni adjustment for multiple testing was implemented.

Results: A mesh technique was used to treat 45.4% of all umbilical hernias. The proportion of small (< 2 cm) umbilical hernias in the total collective of umbilical hernias was 55.6%. Suture repair was used consistently over the 10-year period to treat around 75% of all small (< 2 cm) umbilical hernias. Preperitoneal mesh placement as recommended in the guidelines was used only in 1.8% of cases. Between 2013 and 2019, stable values of 2 and 0.7% were observed for the postoperative complications and complication-related reoperations, respectively, with no relevant effect identified for the surgical technique. At 1-year follow-up, significantly higher rates of pain at rest (2.6 vs. 3.3), pain on exertion (5.7 vs. 6.6), and recurrences (1.3 vs. 1.8) (all p < 0.05) were identified for 2018 compared with 2013.

Conclusions: A suture technique is still used to treat 75% of patients with small (< 2 cm) umbilical hernias. The pain and recurrence rates are significantly less favorable for 2018 compared with 2013.

Keywords: Chronic pain; Complications; Mesh repair; Recurrence; Suture repair; Umbilical hernia.

MeSH terms

  • Hernia, Umbilical* / epidemiology
  • Hernia, Umbilical* / surgery
  • Herniorrhaphy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Mesh