Leaking Umbilical Hernias in Cirrhotic Patients, Repair or Observe?

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Background: Umbilical hernias (UHs) in cirrhotic patients are common, can be quite complicated and are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Leakage of ascites is a challenging entity and poses significant risks. Methods: This is a retrospective study of patients with cirrhosis and UHs with ascitic leakage. Patients were divided into two groups: patients managed operatively during index admission (Group 1) and those managed non-surgically during index admission (Group 2). Group 2 was further divided into those that subsequently underwent repair of UH and those managed medically. Results: Of 47 cirrhotic patients with leaking UHs, 19 patients were managed surgically during index admission (Group 1). In Group 2, 15 patients were managed non-surgically and 13 subsequently underwent surgery. The groups had comparable demographics, MELD-Na and Child-Pugh class. Group 2 had a higher rate of emergency surgery (92% vs 58%, P =.04) and higher rate of recurrence (31 vs. 0%, P =.02). The non-surgical patients in Group 2 had higher 1-year mortality (67%) compared to Group 1 (21%) and surgical patients in Group 2 (31%, P =.007). Multi-variable logistic regression for 1-year mortality demonstrated MELD-Na as the most significant risk factor (OR = 1.2, P =.05) and undergoing UH repair as the most significant protective factor (OR =.16, P =.02). Conclusions: Cirrhotic patients with leaking UHs should undergo urgent repair. Non-operative management confers high risk of continued or increased ascitic leakage necessitating more emergent surgery. Despite high rate of post-operative complications related to cirrhosis, there is a clear mortality benefit to the repair of leaking UHs in cirrhotic patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5365-5371
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • cirrhosis
  • umbilical hernia


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