The incidence of recurrence in incisional hernia prosthetic surgery is markedly lower than in direct plasties. Indeed after the autoplasties of the preprosthetic period, the recurrence rate ranged from 35% for ventral hernias. Chevrel and Flament, in 1990, reported on 1,033 patients who had undergone laparotomy. The recurrence rate at 10-year follow-up was 14–24% for patients treated without the use of prostheses but only 8.6% for those in whom a prosthesis was implanted. A similar incidence was reported by Chevrel in 1995: 18.3% recurrence without prostheses, 5.5% with prostheses. Likewise, Wantz, in 1991, noted a recurrence rate of 0–18.5% in prosthetic laparo-alloplasties.
At the European Hernia Society (EHS)-GREPA meeting in 1986, the recurrence rate without prostheses was reported to be between 7.2 and 17% whereas in patients who had been treated with a prosthesis the recurrence was between 1 and 5.8%. A case study published by Flament in 1999 showed a 5.6% recurrence rate for operations with prostheses placed behind the muscles and in front of the fascia, and a 3.6% of such figure consisted of a small-sized lateroprosthetic recurrence. These rates were in contrast to the 26.8% recurrence reported by other surgeons for operations without prostheses.
Studies of recurrence are, of course, influenced by the size of the initial defect and the length of follow-up. Nevertheless, it is beyond dispute that the use of prostheses is associated with a lower rate of recurrence independent of the nature of the incisional hernia. The factors that lead to relapse are recognisable in the original features of the ventral hernia, i.e. combined musculo-aponeurotic parietal involvement, septic complications in the first operation, the nature and appropriateness of treatment, the kind of prosthesis and its position. Also important is whether the surgery was an emergency case and the relation to occlusive phenomena, visceral damage
and whether these problems were addressed at the same time.
Obesity is also an important risk factor for recurrence. In addition to its association with a higher surgical complications rate, related to the high intraabdominal pressure, there are deficits in wound cicatrisation as well as respiratory and metabolic pathologies. In such patients, the laparoscopic approach is very useful to significantly reduce the onset of general and wall complications, and the data concerning recurrence are encouraging, ranging between 1 and 9% in the largest laparoscopic case studies. The important multicentric study of Heniford et al., in 2000, reported a recurrence rate of 3.4% after 23 months. In 2003, the same author, in a study with an average follow-up of 20 months (range 1–96) showed a recurrence rate of 4.7% for different, identifiable causes: intestinal iatrogenic injuries and mesh infection with its removal, insufficient fixation of the prosthesis and abdominal trauma in the first postoperative period.
The incidence of recurrence after laparoscopic treatment may also be related to general patient factors and to the onset of local complications, mistakes in opting for laparoscopic treatment and deficits in implanting and fixing the prosthesis. With respect to the latter, it is very important to allow a large overlap compared to the diameter of the defect. Long-term data analysis, with large case studies, is still needed to obtain detailed information about recurrence, and this is particularly true in the assessment of relatively new techniques.