Minimally Invasive Open Preperitoneal Inguinal Hernia Repair

Michael Reinhorn MD FACS
Tufts University School of Medicine


Inguinal hernia is the most common form of hernia in adults, and is the result of either a congenital or acquired weakness in the lower abdominal wall, resulting in a defect through which the lining of the abdomen, or peritoneum, protrudes. An indirect inguinal hernia results from dilation of the internal ring over time, or a congenital patent processus vaginalis. In either case, a peritoneal sac herniates through the internal ring and often the external ring as well. In a direct inguinal hernia, transversalis fascia stretches out allowing for preperitoneal fat or peritoneal contents to herniate through Hasselbach’s triangle. This can result in swelling of the lower abdomen and, at times, pain. In severe cases, abdominal contents such as bowel can protrude through the weakness as well, creating a life-threatening condition. The aim of inguinal hernia surgery is to repair the structural integrity of the lower abdomen, and, in adults, placement of a mesh reduces the risk of reformation, or recurrence, of the hernia. The difficult recovery associated with traditional inguinal hernia repair, where the inguinal canal is opened, has driven interest in less invasive alternatives, such as laparoscopic and open preperitoneal approaches. In experienced hands, these latter approaches result in equivalent rates of recurrence with much improved postoperative recovery.

Typical Clinical Presentation

Focused history

History of inguinal hernia is usually consistent with a lower abdominal mass, which may or may not change in size. Most patients feel some discomfort or pain with lifting, sitting or exercise. Symptoms are often worse at the end of the day. Some patients may remain symptom free for years. If there are complaints of pain without any history of a mass, causes other than inguinal hernia should be sought. Patients who present with a history of a severe pain, associated with an inflamed lower abdominal mass should be evaluated emergently for incarceration of abdominal contents within a hernia.

Physical findings

Most inguinal hernias present as a visible bulge in the groin. This is often associated with mild discomfort, or pain. Patients presenting with severe pain may have incarceration and/or strangulation of abdominal contents, which is a surgical emergency. Many times the hernia can be visually identified, and then reduced by the examiner, clinching the diagnosis. At times, the findings can be more subtle. If a hernia is suspected but not immediately obvious, palpation of the inguinal canal while the patient performs a Valsalva maneuver or coughs can elicit the bulge of an inguinal hernia.


Although the vast majority of inguinal hernias are diagnosed through the physical examination, in rare cases various imaging modalities can help decide equivocal cases. Specifically, CT scans can be used in patients whose body habitus prevents an accurate physical exam.

Natural History

The natural history of all inguinal hernias is one of progressive enlargement of the hernia and weakening of the lower abdominal wall, with a small but persistent risk of incarceration and strangulation of abdominal contents. There is a wide variability of patient complaints that range from a painless visible bulge to severe pain without an obvious mass. Evaluation by a surgeon is important for diagnosis and risk stratification. There is even evidence of a long period of symptom quiescence1. Due to this, watchful waiting for this latter group is a legitimate management strategy in some patients.

Treatment Options

Options for nonoperative treatment include watchful waiting for minimally symptomatic hernias, and trusses for larger and symptomatic hernias. Symptomatic hernias are treated with surgical correction of the defect in the abdominal wall. The general surgical approaches can be broken down into anterior and posterior approaches. All surgical repairs include both the repair of the primary defect often with placement of a mesh to prevent future recurrences.

The anterior approach is the category of repairs that include both traditional tissue-only repairs and mesh repairs placed by opening the inguinal canal from the front. Examples of tissue-only repairs include the Bassini and Shouldice repair, and examples of mesh repair are the Lichtenstein and plug and patch repairs. There are many varieties of products and approaches for these repairs.

Treatment Rationale

Surgical repair was recommended in this patient due to his young age and symptoms. The author has significant experience with laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair, but now routinely performs the Kugel or open preperitoneal repair because of the faster recovery and decreased postoperative pain. This particular procedure corrects the defect while avoiding the long recovery time associated with anterior approaches, a particular advantage in young, active patients.

Special considerations

Patients who have had a radical prostatectomy are generally not candidates for laparoscopic hernia surgery, but may be eligible to undergo an open preperitoneal repair. Patients who have had a previous laparoscopic (posterior) approach on the same side and have a recurrent hernia are not candidates for an open posterior approach.


The traditional anterior inguinal hernia repair, where the inguinal canal is opened and the repair performed below the internal inguinal ring, has been utilized for decades with low hernia recurrence rates. With the advent of the Lichenstein, or tension-free, repair, which utilizes a biologically inert mesh to bolster the body’s soft tissues rather than through rearrangement of the soft tissue itself, recurrence rates dropped even further. However, even with the advance associated with a tension-free repair, the recovery associated with the anterior approach has typically been long and uncomfortable, traditionally incapacitating the patient for several weeks. More recently, a posterior approach, first described by Renee Stoppa, has been advocated. The analogy often used to describe the difference between anterior and posterior approach for hernia repair is the repair of a hole in a bicycle tire. The anterior approach is equivalent to repairing the hole with a plug in the tire and the posterior approach is equivalent to placing a larger patch in between the inner tube and the tire. In the posterior approach, the repair takes place in the preperitoneal space, above the internal inguinal ring, with the mesh material placed entirely within the preperitoneal space. A laparoscopic approach to hernia repair has been developed, modeled on the posterior approach; however, due to high reported rates of recurrence associated with this approach, as compared to traditional anterior approaches,2, 3, it is usually reserved for treatment of recurrent hernias after an anterior repair2. Nevertheless, there is evidence to show that in experienced hands, posterior repairs of primary inguinal hernias have success rates approaching that of the anterior approach, with vastly improved postoperative recovery2.

Traditional hernia surgery carries a high risk of chronic pain. As many as 17% of patients can have significant pain for years after traditional hernia surgery. This high incidence is likely secondary to the location of the mesh used for this kind of surgery. With the open preperitoneal repair, the nerves responsible for the chronic pain are avoided, leading to a lower incidence of this problematic complication4.

More recently the Kugel preperitoneal and the ONSTEP approaches have been described as less invasive and less costly alternatives to laparoscopy5. With the open preperitoneal procedure, also known as the Kugel repair, we have found that typically patients are back to work in a matter of days, with return to full activity in two weeks. This is due to the extensive dissection in the preperitoneal space, including below Cooper’s ligament, which allows us to place the mesh without any need for suturing, allowing passive pressure of the peritoneal contents to keep the mesh in place. The entire procedure is done under local with sedation in patients with a BMI of 28 or less, and most patients need only acetaminophen for pain control postoperatively. The key advantage of this repair over that of the laparoscopic repair is that local anesthetic is infiltrated into every layer of the abdominal wall before any dissection is performed. This dramatically reduces the need for anesthesia and postoperative pain medication.

With this surgery, three hernia defects are repaired every time: direct, indirect and femoral. Our series of Kugel repairs now extends to over a thousand hernia patients. In our experience, the recurrence rates are similar to that of published series of anterior approaches, with vastly improved postoperative recovery times, including time to return to work, use of pain medication, and chronic pain complaints. This is in line with findings regarding outcomes after laparoscopic hernia repair for primary hernias6, 7 of which our approach is a variation. There is also a cost savings advantage to our approach. Although the cost of the open preperitoneal approach is greater than the standard anterior approach – almost entirely due to the cost of the mesh used – it is significantly less than the laparoscopic approach8. Due to all of the above mentioned factors, we believe the open, minimally invasive approach to preperitoneal hernia repair offers a very attractive option to those patients suffering from hernias.


In addition to a minor surgical tray used in traditional hernia surgery, the surgeon must use a bright headlight as the incision is only 3-4 cm in size. The best mesh for this repair is the Ventrio ST patch (Davol - Cranston, RI). Most of the dissection deep in the space is performed with 2 medium Debakey forceps. No penrose drain is needed and a generous amount of local is used.


No Disclosures

Statement of consent

The patient referred to in this video article has given their informed consent to be filmed and is aware that information and images will be published on-line.


  1. Fitzgibbons RJ Jr1, Giobbie-Hurder A, Gibbs JO, Dunlop DD, Reda DJ, McCarthy M Jr, Neumayer LA, Barkun JS, Hoehn JL, Murphy JT, Sarosi GA Jr, Syme WC, Thompson JS, Wang J, Jonasson O.  Watchful waiting vs repair of inguinal hernia in minimally symptomatic men: a randomized clinical trial.  JAMA. 2006 Jan 18;295(3):285-92.
  2. Neumayer L, Giobbie-Hurder A, Jonasson O, Fitzgibbons R Jr, Dunlop D, Gibbs J, Reda D, Henderson W: Veterans Affairs Cooperative Studies Program 456 Investigators.  Open mesh versus laparoscopic mesh repair of inguinal hernia.  N Engl J Med. 2004 Apr 29;350(18):1819-27. Epub 2004 Apr 25.
  3. Bobby Dasari, Lorraine Grant, Terry Irwin.  Immediate and long-term outcomes of Lichtenstein and Kugel patch operations for inguinal hernia repair. Ulster Med J 2009;78(2):115-118.
  4. R. Hompes · F. Vansteenkiste · H. Pottel · D. Devriendt · F. Van Rooy.  Chronic pain after Kugel inguinal hernia repair.  Hernia. 2008 12:127–132.
  5. Lourenço A1, da Costa RS.  The ONSTEP inguinal hernia repair technique: initial clinical experience of 693 patients, in two institutions.Hernia. 2013 Jun;17(3):357-64. doi: 10.1007/s10029-013-1057-z. Epub 2013 Feb 24.
  6. Pisanu A1, Podda M, Saba A, Porceddu G, Uccheddu A.  Meta-analysis and review of prospective randomized trials comparing laparoscopic and Lichtenstein techniques in recurrent inguinal hernia repair.  Hernia. 2014 Jul 18. [Epub ahead of print].
  7. Myers E, Browne KM, Kavanagh DO, Hurley M.  Laparoscopic (TEP) versus Lichtenstein inguinal hernia repair: a comparison of quality-of-life outcomes.  World J Surg. 2010 Dec;34(12):3059-64
  8. 8 Bender O1, Balcı FL, Yüney E, Sağlam F, Ozdenkaya Y, Sarı YS.  Systemic inflammatory response after Kugel versus laparoscopic groin hernia repair: a prospective randomized trial.  Surg Endosc. 2009 23:2657–2661.


David Miller,DDS · Posted 3 years ago · reply  

You have a very interesting video and hernia repair technique. I'm looking for a surgeon who has been trained in your Kugel Preperitoneal inguinal hernia repair technique. I live in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area and was wondering if any one would know a name of a surgeon in this area who knows your procedure. Thank you for your help. David Miller

jbevers@juno.com · Posted 3 years ago · reply  

Do you know surgeons who have experience with this technique in Arizona? I am trying to locate someone. Thanks.

dgould42@hotmail.com · Posted 3 years ago · reply  

I would like to know what the Drs thoughts are on sports hernias & does he do repairs. Thank You Deb Gould

Michael Reinhorn · Posted 3 years ago · reply  

Thanks for your questions. The only way that I currently know how to find surgeons who perform this procedure is to seek out one of the Mesh distributors from Davol - Bard. Reaching out to the company directly, or checking out their website may help as well. One of them gave me the name of Dr Trent Carlson, in the Minneapolis area.

donna silverman · Posted 3 years ago · reply  

I have been suffering with cronic pain since jan. 10'2000 from my first hernia repair from the mesh implant's and have multiable hernia's repair's & one of them was a inguinal-repair &very rare speligian hernia was the on in 2000; & then left/right femoral hernia's and bactrail infection's and i can go on on but in the mean time i have been suffuring way too long with this cronic pain.

Michael Reinhorn · Posted 24 days ago · reply  

Donna, I'm sorry to hear about your chronic pain. Unfortunately, some people who have hernia surgery develop chronic pain. Research is showing that mesh repairs that place the mesh under the abdominal wall - as is done in this repair - have a lower incidence of chronic pain and recurrence than other typed of repair.

John Paolillo · Posted 2 years ago · reply  

Dr. Reinhorn, Thank you for a very educational video. Can you clarify the purpose of "Encirclement of Hernia Sac" and "Hernia sac dissected free of attachments from internal ring..." And what exactly is done with the hernia sac after it is encircled and teased free? It appears to be pushed back into the surgical site. If so, what was accomplished by "dissecting" it? And why is it so "wispy" rather than being a "bulge" containing the contents of the herniated material? As a potential patient, I expected the procedure to show you pushing the "bulge" back into the preperitoneal space at some point, yes? Also, re: Ilioinguinal block - Done after sedation and local anesthetic? So, minimal pain? Ultrasound guidance used? Any risk of bowel perforation, puncture of blood vessels? Are 2 blocks needed for double hernia surgery? Thanks, -jp

Dr. Reinhorn · Posted 2 years ago · reply  

JP, Thanks for the insightful questions. The hernia sac is peritoneum. Most of the time, it is not necessary to remove. I have a cartoon video that explains this on my website. Essentially, The mesh is sandwiched between the peritoneum and abdominal wall. The purpose of the dissecting is to create the space necessary to put the mesh in flat against the abdominal wall. The patch, as well as the entire dissection is in the preperitoneal space. I do the block after sedation in the OR without ultrasound. Some institutions do this under u/s, but I have done more than 2000 in the OR without bowel injury or hematoma. I perform a block for each side I repair, so 2 for bilateral. MR

DM · Posted 2 years ago · reply  

Dr. Reinhorn : Are there other doctors in Boston area who do this as well? I'd like to go with you but your practice doesn't accept my insurance (it used to I believe) but I do think this surgery type should be pretty good especially for a patient like me who has had recurrence even after two open hernia surgeries (one without and one with mesh). Any other advice would be great too. Best regards, DM

Michael Reinhorn · Posted 24 days ago · reply  

DM, I'm seeing your question now and hope that you had successful surgery. I believe there is a surgeon in the South Shore who does this repair occasionally.

Robin gentile · Posted 2 years ago · reply  

I would like to know if you can perform this on a person who's age is 94 and has had heart attacks? My Dad has a very big hernia and he definitely needs some thing to be done. Do you have any advise for me. Thank You

Michael Reinhorn · Posted 24 days ago · reply  

Robin, I am seeing your question today only ( I am working closely with the publisher to provide quick turnaround) - I hope your father had successful surgery. There is no age restriction on hernia surgery, but sometimes the risk of surgery outweighs the benefits so a team approach is important to assessing risks and potential benefits.

steve goldberg · Posted 1 year ago · reply  

I used to do this repair so it's very understandable but to the uninitiated the addition of diagrams to better understand the anatomy/ spaces would probably be of benefit

Michael Reinhorn · Posted 24 days ago · reply  

Thanks Steve, I agree with you to some degree. I find two dimensional diagrams hard to use when explaining surgery.. I'm working to develop a realistic 3D model of the anatomy ( with hernia) that can be used for teaching.

Kimberly Fresh · Posted 1 year ago · reply  

Did not see usefulness for Health Services Administration.

Kimberly Fresh · Posted 1 year ago · reply  


John Mayer · Posted 1 year ago · reply  

Very intriguing and reassuring, though I was not always clear as to what tissues were being cut upon. As a prospective hernia repair patient I was happy to see that the vas deferens and other bits of the nether regions seem to be pretty durable and resilient. I watched this both as a prospective patient and as a nurse who might one day assist in surgery. I participate in a rigorous combat exercise and keep fairly fit, so I was surprised to have developed a hernia bulge. There is no pain as yet and I've maintained both my work and exercise and am evaluating at what point I should undergo surgery. I fear laproscopic is the best I'll find in the Knoxville area. Thanks for producing this video.

Michael Reinhorn · Posted 24 days ago · reply  

John, I hope you underwent successful hernia surgery. I typically only recommend surgery when the symptoms of a hernia interfere with the activity level that you want to engage in. If you have additional questions I created this FAQ page that may be of help: https://bostonhernia.com/education/hernia-faq/

salah muslim · Posted 8 months ago · reply  

very interested surgery . nice work

Ophelia Goodman · Posted 5 months ago · reply  

what needle size was used and what suture size was used to close the skin?

Michael Reinhorn · Posted 24 days ago · reply  

We use a 4-0 vicryl suture on a PS-2 needle to do an intradermal closure

Frank E Tate,III · Posted 3 months ago · reply  

I’ve reviewed the procedure and am very please, with this outstanding work.. Although, I’m not 18 years old but, 64, I, believe, my work will be successful. My ultrasound, and hopefully, a scheduled meeting with the surgeon, then the procedure. Thanks for the video previews.. Great work, and a Great Team...

Michael Reinhorn · Posted 24 days ago · reply  

Frank, We are glad you liked the video - The folks at JOMI are excellent at creating this teaching tool.

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