Incisional and parastomal hernias continue to be vexing problems for patients and surgeons. Risk factors are generally patient-related and/or technical in nature, and in some cases, can be altered, resulting in improved outcomes. Improved fascial closure techniques can only partly reduce the risk of incisional hernia formation. Even under optimal circumstances, using time tested closure techniques and materials, the rate remains high, due primarily to factors that are not modifiable or are unidentifiable. In such cases, there may be a beneficial role for prophylactic mesh augmentation (PMA), wherein mesh is implanted at the time of initial surgery or stoma formation. Several high-risk groups that might benefit from PMA have been identified, including patients undergoing open abdominal aneurysm repair or colorectal procedures, obese patients, and patients requiring creation of permanent gastrointestinal or urological stomas. Although the initial results of PMA are promising, the benefits of this strategy must be weighed against potential risks. Outcome measures to assess efficacy should include not only hernia recurrence but also quality of life, surgical-site occurrences, and cost. Further studies are warranted to predict which specific patient populations might benefit most from PMA and to identify ideal mesh materials as well as preferred implantation sites and methods of mesh fixation.
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