Two-Team Surgical Approach to Improve Retroperitoneal Nerve Identification in the Treatment of Groin Pain

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Annals of Plastic Surgery


Background: An estimated 700,000 groin hernia repairs are performed in the United States each year. Studies have shown that up to 50% of patients who undergo groin hernia repair are affected by persistent pain beyond the first few days after surgery. At 2 to 5 years after either open or laparoscopic, mesh or without mesh, 10% to 12% of these patients will have persistent and disabling pain. If the ilioinguinal, iliohypogastric, or genitofemoral nerves are injured below the transversalis muscle layer, the traditional external, open approach to nerve resection will not help these patients. The traditional internal, laparoscopic, approach to the retroperitoneum can be used for nerve resection, but identification of the correct nerve is difficult. Therefore, we have developed a 2-team, dual approach, combining open and endoscopic approaches to solve this problem.

Methods: A retrospective review of the electronic medical records was performed to identify all patients who underwent a dual approach for groin denervation after persistent postherniorraphy pain. This dual approach included an external incision paired with a laparoscopic, retroperitoneal approach to identify and/or transect the ilioinguinal, iliohypogastic, lateral femoral cutaneous, and genital branch of the genitofemoral nerve. Inclusion criteria are persistent groin pain with alleviation after preoperative nerve block and either a failed attempt at an external approach groin denervation or pain after a primary laparotomy/laparoscopy procedure.

Results: Thirteen patients met the inclusion criteria. All patients underwent a dual approach, and nerves were identified and confirmed in both the external groin and laparoscopic approaches. When placed on a scale from excellent/good to fair/poor relief of pain, 10 patients (77%) described excellent/good relief and 3 (23%) continued to have persistent pain.

Conclusions: A combined open surgical procedure, to identify the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, and a laparoscopic procedure in the retroperitoneum have demonstrated the feasibility of this approach to identify correctly the nerve to be resected to relieve disabling groin pain.

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Publication Date

Winter 1-2019