Comparison of Postoperative Outcomes of Laparoscopic vs Open Inguinal Hernia Repair

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JAMA Surgery


Importance: Advocates of laparoscopic surgery argue that all inguinal hernias, including initial and unilateral ones, should be repaired laparoscopically. Prior work suggests outcomes of open repair are improved by using local rather than general anesthesia, but no prior studies have compared laparoscopic surgery with open repair under local anesthesia. Objective: To evaluate postoperative outcomes of open inguinal hernia repair under general or local anesthesia compared with laparoscopic repair. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective cohort study identified 107073 patients in the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program database who underwent unilateral initial inguinal hernia repair from 1998 to 2019. Data were analyzed from October 2021 to March 2022. Exposures: Patients were divided into 3 groups for comparison: (1) open repair with local anesthesia (n = 22333), (2) open repair with general anesthesia (n = 75104), and (3) laparoscopic repair with general anesthesia (n = 9636). Main Outcomes and Measures: Operative time and postoperative morbidity were compared using quantile regression and inverse probability propensity weighting. A 2-stage least-squares regression and probabilistic sensitivity analysis was used to quantify and address bias from unmeasured confounding in this observational study. Results: Of 107073 included patients, 106529 (99.5%) were men, and the median (IQR) age was 63 (55-71) years. Compared with open repair with general anesthesia, laparoscopic repair was associated with a nonsignificant 0.15% (95% CI, -0.39 to 0.09; P =.22) reduction in postoperative complications. There was no significant difference in complications between laparoscopic surgery and open repair with local anesthesia (-0.05%; 95% CI, -0.34 to 0.28; P =.70). Operative time was similar for the laparoscopic and open general anesthesia groups (4.31 minutes; 95% CI, 0.45-8.57; P =.048), but operative times were significantly longer for laparoscopic compared with open repair under local anesthesia (10.42 minutes; 95% CI, 5.80-15.05; P <.001). Sensitivity analysis and 2-stage least-squares regression demonstrated that these findings were robust to bias from unmeasured confounding. Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, laparoscopic and open repair with local anesthesia were reasonable options for patients with initial unilateral inguinal hernias, and the decision should be made considering both patient and surgeon factors.

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