Conservative Management of Mesh-Site Infection
in Hernia Repair
Brenda Aguilar, MD, Alyssa B. Chapital, MD,
James A. Madura, II, MD, and Kristi L. Harold, MD
Background: Mesh hernioplasty is the preferred surgical procedure for large abdominal wall hernias. Infection
remains one of the most challenging complications of this operation. Salvaging infected prosthetic material after
ventral hernia repair is rarely successful. Most cases require mesh excision and complex abdominal wall re-
construction, with variable success rates. In this article, we report 3 cases of mesh salvage after laparoscopic
ventral herniorrhapy with a novel use of percutaneous drainage and antibiotic irrigation.
Results: Three patients developed infected seromas after laparoscopic ventral hernia repair. The fascial defect
of the first patient was repaired with a commercially available 20?18cm polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) mesh.
A complex fluid collection developed the following month in the anterior abdominal wall overlying the patient’s
mesh. The cultures grew Staphylococcus aureus. The second patient had a 30?20cm PTFE mesh placed, which
developed a fluid collection with Enterococcus faecalis and Escherichia coli. The third case underwent repair, using
a another commercially available 22?28cm PTFE mesh. A fluid collection measuring 20?10cm in the anterior
abdominal wall developed, growing Staphylococcus lugdunensis. In all 3 cases, a percutaneous drain was placed
within the fluid collection and long-term intravenous (i.v.) access was obtained. I.v. antibiotics were initiated. In
addition, gentamicin (80mg) with 20mL of saline was infused through the drain 3 times a day. All patients have
remained free of clinical signs of infection following the completion of therapy.
Conclusions: Infected mesh after laparoscopic ventral herniorrhapy without systemic sepsis may be amenable to
nonoperative treatment. A conservative approach that includes percutaneous drainage followed by antibiotic
irrigation is a potential alternative to prosthetic removal in carefully selected patients. Further evaluation of this
technique is warranted to define the most appropriate management strategies for these patients.
Clinical evidence support lower recurrence rates as they
permanent replacement for native fascia that frequently has
been weakened or removed by previous surgery. Reduction
of ventral hernia recurrence by 30%1–3has been shown.
However, the lower recurrence rates come at the price of
mesh-related complications, including seromas, adhesions,
The exact incidence of mesh infections is difficult to obtain
due to the variable presentation period after surgery. Infec-
tions can arise anywhere from 2 to 39 months6following re-
pair. The incidence has been reported from 0.001 to 8%7–14
in the literature. While this appears relatively infrequent,
he placement of prosthetic biomaterials has become a
standard procedure during ventral hernia repair surgery.
when compared with other device-related infections, the
clinical significance of this diagnosis portends a complex,9,10
extended course for both the patient and the surgeon.8,12
The rate of mesh infection is influenced considerably by
underlying comorbidity, immunosuppression, incision size,
obesity, history of previous hernia repair or wound infection,
and tobacco use.7–14Unfortunately, patients with these same
risk factors are also likely to have a recurrent hernia, if the
prosthetic mesh is not utilized in the repair.8
Standard surgical practice has traditionally advocated the
removal of contaminated or exposed prosthetics. Un-
fortunately, the removal of the prosthetic materials is often
technically difficult when there is good tissue incorporation
and can increase the risk of subsequent enterocutaneous fis-
tula formation.15Achieving closure of the fascial defect after
mesh removal is not usually possible; therefore, a larger
ventral hernia than at the time of original repair may result.
Department of General Surgery, Mayo Clinic Hospital, Phoenix, Arizona.
JOURNAL OF LAPAROENDOSCOPIC & ADVANCED SURGICAL TECHNIQUES
Volume 20, Number 3, 2010
ª Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
These issues have generated interest in a successful, conser-
vative treatment algorithm that does not involve mesh re-
moval.13,14,16,17In this article, we describe a novel approach to
manage the complex problem of infected prosthetic mesh
following laparoscopic ventral hernia repair (LVHR).
Materials and Methods
This study was conducted by the Department of Surgery at
Mayo Clinic Hospital (Phoenix, AZ). We report 3 cases of
mesh infection after laparoscopic hernia repair with a pros-
thetic mesh. The infection was diagnosed by clinical evidence
of pain, redness, induration, fever, and purulent discharge on
aspiration. We attempted to treat these cases with a conser-
After ultrasonografic confirmation of a fluid collection
surrounding the prosthetic mesh, a computed tomography
(CT)-guided placement of a drain was perform in all cases.
The skin overlying the left abdomen was sterilely prepped,
then draped to infiltrate 1% lidocaine. An 18-gauge needle
Amplatz wire was placed in the collection, the tract was
dilated with a 6.8- and 10-Fr fascial dilator, followed by the
placement of a 10-Fr locking loop all-purpose drainage cath-
eter that was then placed into the fluid collection. Repeat CT
was performed, confirming appropriate placement. A speci-
men was sent to the lab for microbiology analysis. The tube
was secured with the skin by using a 2-0 Prolene suture. The
catheter was left to external bulb suction. The patients and
their relatives were instructed to irrigate the catheter with
gentamicin (80mg) in 20mL of normal saline, leaving the
solution in the cavity for 30 minutes and then returning the
drain to bulb suction. This was performed 3 times per day.
We chose gentamicin as the primary antibiotic for the irri-
gation therapy for its properties as a bactericidal agent at low
concentrations and its known activity against Staphylococcus
spp. as well as gram-negative cocci. Local use of gentamicin
concentrations remain low, thus preventing toxicity. Special
recognition has been given to the use of gentamicin for the
treatment of infected skin cysts and other skin abscesses,
when preceded by incision and drainage to permit adequate
contact between the drug and the infecting bacteria.7
A 50-year-old female underwent a robotic bilateral ovarian
cystectomy, at which time she had an abdominal wall mesh
place for an umbilical hernia. This mesh became infected and
was removed. Six months following removal, an LVHR was
performed with a 20?18cm polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
Gore DualMesh?(Creative Technologies Worldwide, Flag-
staff, AZ) for a recurrent hernia. One month later, the patient
was found to have erythema over her abdominal wall as well
a complex fluid collection in the anterior abdominal wall
overlying the patient’s mesh. Percutaneous drainage of the
abscess was then undertaken, where approximately 100mL of
purulent material wasaspirated.A drain wasleft in place. The
cultures revealed Staphylococcus aureus sensitive to ampicillin
and sulbactam. Drain irrigation with gentamicin (80mg) in
intravenous (i.v.) antibiotics was initiated. The drain and
central line were then removed. There has been no clinical
evidence of recurrent infection at 18 months of follow-up.
A 63-year-old male with end-stage liver disease secondary
to primary sclerosing cholangitis underwent an orthotopic
liver transplant and Roux-en-Y choledochojejunostomy per-
formed in 2005. He subsequently developed a large ventral
hernia, which was repaired laparoscopically with a 30?20cm
PTFE Gore DualMesh in September 2007. In January 2009, the
patient underwent a routine colonoscopy and developed
Enterococcus faecalis and Escherichia coli bacteremia. An ab-
dominal CT scan demonstrated a fluid collection posterior to
the abdominal mesh. At that time, an external drain was
placed to treat the infection with gentamicin flushes (80mg in
20mL of NS 3 times a day), aswell as i.v. antibiotics through a
peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line), including
ceftriaxone (2g once-daily) and ampicillin (2g 3 times a day).
After 1 month of treatment, there were no clinical signs of
infection. The drain and antibiotics were then discontinued.
He continues to have no sign of infection currently at 11
months of follow-up.
A 41-year-old female underwent multiple cesarean sec-
tions, followed by the development of a ventral hernia. This
was repaired 8 times with mesh placement, in most cases. On
one occasion, the mesh had to be removed secondary to in-
fection. We performed an LVHR with a 22?28cm PTFE Gore
The patient presented the following month with general-
ized body aches, chills, and fever. An abdominal CT scan was
performed that demonstrated a large fluid collection in the
anterior abdominal wallmeasuring 20?10cm. Itwasdrained,
producing 450mL of fluid. A percutaneous drain and a
PICC line were placed. Cultures grew 1þ S. lugdunensis. I.v.
amipicillin and sulbactam as well as gentamicin irrigation
(80mg in 20mL of NS) through the drain 3 times a day was
At the end of treatment, a follow-up CT scan performed on
her abdomen and pelvis demonstrated improvement of the
anterior fluid collection previously drained. There remained a
seroma posterior to the mesh that was 9cm in size without
evidence of abscess features. An attempt to aspirate the ser-
oma was unsuccessful due to its depth. The patient was
placed on amoxicillin=clavulanate (875mg) by mouth twice-
daily for an additional 3 weeks of antibiotic therapy. The
anterior drain remained in place during this time and was
removed after it produced less than 10mL of serous fluid
daily. At 13 months of follow-up, she has done well with no
signs of infection.
Surgical-site infections continue to be a major source of
morbidity throughout the world, accounting for almost 40–
60%10,18of all postoperative infectious complications. This
concern, along with the increased costs associated with ex-
tended hospitalization and reparative treatment, justifies
efforts to identify patient populations at risk and optimize
preoperative preparation and perioperative care. In the past
250 AGUILAR ET AL.
few years, the hernia repair with alloplastic prothesis has
become the standard treatment due to lower rates of recur-
rence, when compared with simple suture closure. However,
the implantation of synthetic materials are related with
wound-associated complications in up to one third of cases.5
Mesh-related infectious complications occur in up to 13.6%
and usually require recurrent surgical intervention.12The
more common agents associated with mesh infection are
Staphylococcus species (spp.) (especially S. aureus), Strepto-
coccus spp. (including group B streptococci), gram-negative
bacteria (mainly Enterobacteriaceae), and anaerobic bacteria
(including Peptostreptococcus spp.).18–21In a study of mesh-
related infections following ventral herniorrhaphies, 63% of
the microorganisms isolated were methicillin-resistant S. au-
reus (MRSA). Rarely, mesh infections are caused by Candida
spp. or Mycobacterium spp.21
Various factors are predictive of prosthetic infections, such
as patient-related illness, including diabetes mellitus, mal-
nutrition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tobacco
and=or alcohol use, medical therapy with steroids, renal
failure, and morbid obesity.5–10,12,17,18,21These medical co-
morbidities are associated with decreased perfusion of the
skin and subcutaneous (s.c.) tissues as well as immunosup-
pressive attributes. Factors directly to the operation, such as
the choice of mesh material and type of surgical procedure,
are still the subject of critical debate. In a meta-analysis of 20
trials (5016 participants) of open versus open nonmesh repair
of groin hernias, it was shown that the rate of postoperative
complications, including infections, was similar in both pro-
cedures.4A similar clinical trial with 200 adult umbilical
hernia repairs with or without mesh showed no differences in
results between techniques, including infection rate.21Kor-
enkov et al.,22in a clinical, randomized trial of 160 patients
with simple or complex hernias that underwent either suture
repair, autodermal skin graft, or onlay polypropylene mesh
repair, found fewer infectious complications after suture re-
pair (9%) than after skin graft or mesh repair (18%) for simple
hernias and 23–35% for complex hernias. White et al.23re-
ported that the use of a mesh and hernia defect >10cm were
associated with significantly more wound complications
(44 versus 26%; P<0.05), especially a increased incidence
of seroma (21 versus 7%). They also reported that patients
undergoing mesh repair were more likely to receive antibi-
otics (91 versus 71%) and have s.c. drains placed (57 versus
25%), compared to simple primary repair.
The traditional surgical management for infection after
hernia repair with prosthetic materials advocates that all in-
fected prosthetic materials must be removed, but this leads to
a high risk of hernia recurrence. Innovative studies aim to
provide evidence that a conservative approach may be a
suitable alternative. Carbonell et al.26studied hernia repairs
byusing seven prosthetic mesh biomaterials innoculated with
bacteria in a live animal and concluded that ePTFE was the
least susceptible to infection, and with silver=chlorhexidine
coating, the prosthesis was able to kill all the inoculated
bacteria. Silver-chlorhexidine-impregnated meshes may be
the prosthetics of choice to prevent the occurrence of mesh
infection in LVHR. The literature would support that the
debridement of all purulent material and necrotic tissue is
essential, but it remains debatable whether to remove the
prostheses. Irrigation with antimicrobial solutions has been
attempted in a few trials. Trunzo et al.13reported 2 cases of
infected seroma after laparoscopic ventral repair: A 20?23cm
Parietex?composite polyester mesh was used in 1 patient,
and a 32?33cm piece of expanded PTFE was used in the
other. After the infections were diagnosed, the patients were
treated by abscess drainage, parenteral antibiotics, and 4
weeks of gentamicin irrigation (80mg in 30mL of solution)
via a drain 3 times per day. Both patients remained free of
clinical signs of infection at 12 and 16 months, respectively.
Ahmad et al.14described 13 cases of open ventral hernia re-
pair with using polypropylene mesh resulting in infection.
They treated their patients with local management, including
incision, drainage, and debridement of the wound, followed
by irrigation with saline=povidone iodine. Eight patients
(62%) required daily dressing changes and five to seven de-
bridements. Threepatients (23%)developedsevere sepsisand
complete dehiscence of the wound. These patients averaged
10–12 debridements during recovery. Two patients (15%)
with cellulitis were discharged after 10–12 days with full re-
covery. All the patients were followed for 3 months and did
not have recurrence of infection.
Some researchers believe that an individualized approach
is necessary to treat patients with mesh infections, and special
considerations must be taken regarding the type of mesh.27
The use of a multifilament polyester mesh is related to a
higher incidence of infection, small-bowel obstruction, and
enterocutaneous fistula formation than the use of other types
of mesh (e.g., knitted monofilament polypropylene, PTFE, or
woven polypropylene).2,12,19,17Further, experimental studies
in animals relate the use of microporous mesh to a higher rate
of infections and development of seromas, whereas macro-
porous material was shown to be associated with a higher
incidence of adhesive and erosive events.23–25The ePTFE
mesh has generated conflicting theories as to its ability to be
salvaged in the face of infection. Paton et al.27concluded that
patients with limited ePTFE mesh infections could be treated
with abscess drainage, antibiotics, and local wound care, but
more extensive infections require mesh removal. Petersen
cases, adequate drainage seemed to be sufficient for poly-
propylene or polyester meshes; however, infected ePTFE
patches should be removed early. The researchers explained
bacterial growth due to inadecuate leucocyte invasion
through the 10-mm pores. Bellon et al.29,30demonstrated that
S. aureus colonies produce alterations in the structure of
ePTFE. From using electron microscopy, they demonstrated
the deformation of internodal filaments and the creation of
fissures in the ePTFE microstructure, and that alteration of the
biomaterial facilitated the attachment and invasion of bacte-
ria. Despite these findings, we have had success with the
salvage of ePTFE after laparoscopic ventral hernia repair. In
our experience, infection of ePTFE does not always mandate
removal. Our 3 cases were successfully managed with
drainage, parenteral antibiotics, and gentamicin irrigation
through a drain, with no recurrence of infection.
For patients with an infected mesh in the absence of sys-
temic sepsis, a conservative approach that includes percuta-
alternative to prosthetic removal. Further evaluation of this
technique is warranted to define the most appropriate man- Download full-text
agement strategies for these patients.
No competing financial interests exist.
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Address correspondence to:
Brenda Aguilar, MD
Department of General Surgery
Mayo Clinic Hospital
5777 East Mayo Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ 85054
252 AGUILAR ET AL.