Updated guideline for closure of abdominal wall incisions from the European and American Hernia Societies

Br J Surg. 2022 Nov 22;109(12):1239-1250. doi: 10.1093/bjs/znac302.


Background: Incisional hernia is a frequent complication of abdominal wall incision. Surgical technique is an important risk factor for the development of incisional hernia. The aim of these updated guidelines was to provide recommendations to decrease the incidence of incisional hernia.

Methods: A systematic literature search of MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane CENTRAL was performed on 22 January 2022. The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network instrument was used to evaluate systematic reviews and meta-analyses, RCTs, and cohort studies. The GRADE approach (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation) was used to appraise the certainty of the evidence. The guidelines group consisted of surgical specialists, a biomedical information specialist, certified guideline methodologist, and patient representative.

Results: Thirty-nine papers were included covering seven key questions, and weak recommendations were made for all of these. Laparoscopic surgery and non-midline incisions are suggested to be preferred when safe and feasible. In laparoscopic surgery, suturing the fascial defect of trocar sites of 10 mm and larger is advised, especially after single-incision laparoscopic surgery and at the umbilicus. For closure of an elective midline laparotomy, a continuous small-bites suturing technique with a slowly absorbable suture is suggested. Prophylactic mesh augmentation after elective midline laparotomy can be considered to reduce the risk of incisional hernia; a permanent synthetic mesh in either the onlay or retromuscular position is advised.

Conclusion: These updated guidelines may help surgeons in selecting the optimal approach and location of abdominal wall incisions.

Plain language summary

An incisional hernia results from a weakness of the abdominal wall muscles that allows fat from the inside or organs to bulge out. These hernias are quite common after abdominal surgery at the site of a previous incision. There is research that discusses different ways to close an incision and this may relate to the chance of hernia formation. The aim of this study was to review the latest research and to provide a guide for surgeons on how best to close incisions to decrease hernia rates. When possible, surgery through small incisions may decrease the risk of hernia formation. If small incisions are used, it may be better if they are placed away from areas that are already weak (such as the belly button). If the incision is larger than 1 cm, it should be closed with a deep muscle-fascia suture in addition to skin sutures. If there is a large incision in the middle of the abdomen, the muscle should be sutured using small stitches that are close together and a slowly absorbable suture should be used. For patients who are at higher risk of developing hernias, when closing the incision, the muscle layer can be strengthened by using a piece of (synthetic) mesh. There is no good research available on recovery after surgery and no clear guides on activity level or whether a binder will help prevent hernia formation.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Wall / surgery
  • Abdominal Wound Closure Techniques* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Incisional Hernia* / epidemiology
  • Incisional Hernia* / prevention & control
  • Incisional Hernia* / surgery
  • Laparotomy
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Suture Techniques

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