Abdominal wall hernias: Risk factors for infection and resource utilization

James R. Dunne*, Debra L. Malone, J. Kathleen Tracy, Lena M. Napolitano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Background. Abdominal wall hernia repairs are common surgical procedures. Several recent reports have studied the outcomes of elderly patients undergoing inguinal hernia repair and documented a morbidity rate ranging from 5-57% and a mortality rate ranging from 1.6-14%. However, there has been limited data documenting the risk factors associated with postoperative morbidity and mortality from abdominal wall hernia repairs in general. Therefore, we sought to investigate the incidence of complications in patients undergoing abdominal wall hernia repair and to evaluate the risk factors for infection and resource utilization in these patients. Methods. Prospective data (NSQIP) were collected on 6301 noncardiac surgical patients at the VA Maryland Healthcare System from 1995 to 2000. From this data set, 487 (7.7%) patients underwent abdominal wall hernia repairs and comprised the study cohort. Logistic and linear regression analyses were performed to identify risk factors for infection and hospital length of stay. Results. The mean age of the study cohort was 60 ± 14 and the mean ASA class was 2.4 ± 0.7. Descriptive data revealed 99% were male, 43% used tobacco, 8.4% were diabetic, 7.4% used alcohol, 6.3% had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 2.1% were malnourished (defined as ≥ 10% weight loss over prior 6 months), 1.6% used steroids, 1.2% had ascites, and 0.2% had coronary artery disease (CAD). The mortality rate was low at 1% but the morbidity rate was higher with a 4.3% incidence of wound infections and a 15.1% incidence of recurrent hernias. The mean preoperative serum albumin level was 4.1 ± 0.6 g/dL, and the mean hospital length of stay was 1.4 ± 4.8 days. Multiple logistic and linear regression analyses documented that CAD, COPD, low preoperative serum albumin, and steroid use were independent risk factors for increased postoperative wound infections (P < 0.05) and increased hospital length of stay (P < 0.05). Conclusions. Abdominal wall hernia repair is associated with significant morbidity in this predominantly elderly cohort but mortality rates were low. COPD and low preoperative serum albumin were independent predictors of wound infections and CAD, COPD, low preoperative serum albumin, and steroid use were independent predictors of increased hospital length of stay. Therefore, consideration should be given to optimizing patient's cardiopulmonary and nutritional status before abdominal wall hernia repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-84
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 May 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Abdominal wall hernia
  • Outcomes
  • Resource utilization
  • Wound infection


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