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Inguinal hernias are a common entity with nearly 31,000 repairs annually in the Netherlands and over 800,000 in the USA. The aim of the present study is to determine whether a laparoscopically diagnosed patent processus vaginalis (PPV) is a risk factor for the development of groin hernia.The study population was originally composed of 599 consecutive cases (189 male, 32%) of laparoscopic transperitoneal surgery for different indications performed in 4 teaching hospitals in the Netherlands between November 1998 and February 2002. During laparoscopy, the deep inguinal ring was inspected bilaterally. The PPV group was compared with the obliterative processus vaginalis (OPV) group.After a mean follow-up of 5.5 years, the studied population consisted of 337 cases (94 male, 28%). In this study 12% of the studied population appeared to have PPV in adult life. The percentage PPV of our study group is much higher than the percentage of hernia repairs performed in the Dutch population. A greater proportion (12%) of hernia repairs in the PPV group was found as compared with the OPV group (3%). The chance of developing an inguinal hernia within 5.3 years is four times higher in the group with PPV. No significant correlation between age and the prevalence of PPV was observed.This study demonstrates that PPV is an etiologic factor and a risk factor for acquiring an indirect inguinal hernia in adults.