Comparison of Surgeon Specialty in Open Ventral Hernia Repair

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Abstract

Background

Ventral hernia repair is a common procedure and is undertaken by surgeons with varying training backgrounds. Outcomes after hernia repair depend on numerous factors, some being patient or surgeon specific. It remains unclear what the ideal roles are for general and plastic surgeons in open ventral hernia repair. We hypothesized that open ventral hernia repair by plastic surgeons is safe and comparable with general surgeons.

Methods

We performed a retrospective observational study using data from the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database from 2007 to 2013. Patients with a primary diagnosis of ventral hernia undergoing open repair were identified. Multivariate regression modeling was performed, adjusting for surgeon specialty, patient characteristics, common concurrent procedures, and the total number of concurrent procedures. Outcomes studied were major and minor 30-day complications, operation time, readmission, unplanned reoperation, and length of hospital stay.

Results

We identified 53,746 patients who underwent open repair, 53,282 (99.1%) by general surgeons (GS) and 464 (0.9%) by plastic surgeons (PS). There were significantly different rates of concurrent panniculectomy (12.1% PS vs 2.4% GS) and component separation (24.8% PS vs 5.3% GS), representing increased PS case complexity. 52.3% of GS and 92.9% of PS performed panniculectomy without an alternate specialty surgeon. 81.3% of GS and 97.4% of PS performed component separation without an alternate specialty surgeon. The PS patients had a significantly longer uncorrected length of stay and operation time than GS patients (all P < 0.001). Similarly, PS was positively associated with uncorrected major and minor complications (P < 0.001). However, these relationships did not persist on multivariate analysis after adjusting for demographic characteristics, medical comorbidities, concurrent procedures, and total procedure load. Furthermore, PS was associated with lower odds of major complications (operating room, 0.49; P = 0.05) compared with GS.

Conclusions

Outcomes of hernia repair by plastic surgeons are comparable with general surgeons, despite plastic surgeons being involved in many complex cases. Interestingly, we identified that general surgeons are performing adjunctive procedures to ventral hernia previously handled by plastic surgeons. Although further study is warranted, we conclude that for open ventral hernia repair, plastic surgeons provide a comparable alternative to general surgeons.

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