The Penn Hernia Center conducts a wide range of research studies to investigate patient outcomes, evaluate new and existing mesh products used in repair, and predict and prevent hernias in at-risk patients.

After surgery, we follow patients for two years, which is longer than at most facilities. We use the data to take a critical look at results and how they relate to surgical approaches.

Our researchers also investigate whether a hernia can be prevented. We are exploring how to predict who might be at a high-risk for an incisional hernia after a non-hernia surgery.

Assessing Quality of Life After Hernia Surgery

Despite recent and continuing improvement in surgical techniques, procedures and materials, the incidence of incisional hernias – hernias caused by a weakening of the abdominal muscles after a non-hernia surgery – remains high.

Of the more than 1 million abdominal surgeries performed in the United States each year, about 10 percent will develop an incisional hernia that needs to be repaired within three to five years. Of these surgeries, 30 to 40 percent will recur, requiring re-repair. Patients who have had previous hernia repairs also are at an increased risk for further complications, including bowel obstruction and intestinal strangulation.

Improving Quality of Life After Hernia Surgery

When you have an incisional hernia, have it fixed, and the repair fails or develops complications, a cycle of recurrence can begin, negatively affecting your quality of life.

Penn researchers created the Abdominal Hernia-Q (AHQ), a question-based, patient-reported outcome measurement to assess patient responses regarding quality of life after hernia surgery. There is another, similar form patients complete before hernia surgery, that you can view, here. 

Through their research, the Penn team gathered input from patients, family members, nurses and doctors to create a comprehensive overview of potential health states relevant to hernia. They refined the information to inform expectations, as well as improve function, appearance, overall satisfaction with the provider-patient relationship and perceptions of post-repair progress.

Penn researchers hope the AHQ becomes the standard of care for measuring quality of life in patient-reported outcomes for abdominal hernia. You can learn more about research at the Penn Hernia Center, here.

Evaluating Individual Risk and Preventing Hernias 

Penn Hernia Center researchers also focus on preoperative incisional hernia prevention. This includes measures such as weight reduction and smoking cessation, as well as other steps taken before surgery to reduce complications after surgery.

Historically, surgeons haven’t had access to a risk assessment tool that offers an individual patient’s risk for post-operative hernia.

To fill that gap, our hernia research team gathered data on age, race, health, physical condition and surgical and medical history from about 78,000 patients who had hernia surgery at Penn during a five-year period. This information was used to develop a series of risk models that were incorporated into a smart phone app known as the Incisional Hernia Predictor.

Using the app, your surgeon can predict your potential risk for hernia in real-time before surgery and take preventative measures and shared decision-making into his or her surgical strategy. This can include placing supportive mesh during your initial operation to prevent an incisional hernia.

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