Management of Reducible Ventral Hernias: Clinical Outcomes and Cost-effectiveness of Repair at Diagnosis Versus Watchful Waiting

Document Type



General Surgery


Objective: To compare long-term clinical and economic outcomes associated with 3 management strategies for reducible ventral hernia: repair at diagnosis (open or laparoscopic) and watchful waiting.
Background: There is variability in ventral hernia management. Recent data suggest watchful waiting is safe; however, long-term clinical and economic outcomes for different management strategies remain unknown.
Methods: We built a state-transition microsimulation model to forecast outcomes for individuals with reducible ventral hernia, simulating a cohort of 1 million individuals for each strategy. We derived cohort characteristics (mean age 58 years, 63% female), hospital costs, and perioperative mortality from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (2003-2011), and additional probabilities, costs, and utilities from the literature. Outcomes included prevalence of any repair, emergent repair, and recurrence; lifetime costs; quality-adjusted life years (QALYs); and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. We performed stochastic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses to identify parameter thresholds that affect optimal management, using a willingness-to-pay threshold of $50,000/QALY.
Results: With watchful waiting, 39% ultimately required repair (14% emergent) and 24% recurred. Seventy per cent recurred with repair at diagnosis. Laparoscopic repair at diagnosis was cost-effective compared with open repair at diagnosis (incremental cost-effectiveness ratio $27,700/QALY). The choice of operative strategy (open vs laparoscopic) was sensitive to cost and postoperative quality of life. When perioperative mortality exceeded 5.2% or yearly recurrence exceeded 19.2%, watchful waiting became preferred.
Conclusions: Ventral hernia repair at diagnosis is very cost-effective. The choice between open and laparoscopic repair depends on surgical costs and postoperative quality of life. In patients with high risk of perioperative mortality or recurrence, watchful waiting is preferred

Publication (Name of Journal)

Annals of surgery