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Revista do Colégio Brasileiro de Cirurgiões

Print version ISSN 0100-6991

Rev. Col. Bras. Cir. vol.40 no.1 Rio de Janeiro Jan./Feb. 2013 



Sequential closure of the abdominal wall with continuous fascia traction (using mesh or suture) and negative pressure therapy



Fernando FerreiraI; Eva BarbosaII; Emanuel GuerreiroIII; Gustavo Pereira Fraga TCBC-SP, FACSIV; Bartolomeu Nascimento JrV; Sandro Rizoli FRCSC, FACSVI

IStaff Surgeon at Pedro Hispano Hospital, Voluntary Teaching Assistant of General Surgery, Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto, Portugal
IITeaching Assistant of Clinical Anatomy at The Biomedical Sciences Institute of Abel Salazar, University of Porto, Portugal
IIIGraded Staff Surgeon at Pedro Hispano Hospital, Voluntary Teaching Assistant of General Surgery, Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto, Portugal
IVProfessor, Division of Trauma Surgery, Department of Surgery, School of Medical Sciences, University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil
VAssistant Professor, Department of Surgery, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
VIFull Professor, Department of Surgery & Critical Care, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Correspondence to




The last decade was marked by a multiplication in the number of publications on (and usage of) the concept of damage control laparotomy, resulting in a growing number of patients left with an open abdomen (or peritoneostomy). Gigantic hernias are among the dreaded consequences of damage control and the impossibility of closing the abdomen during the initial hospital admission. To minimize this sequela, the literature has proposed many different strategies. In order to explore this topic, the "Evidence-based Telemedicine - Trauma & Acute Care Surgery" (EBT -TACS) conducted a literature review and critically appraised the most relevant articles on the topic. No commercially available systems for the closure of peritoneostomies were analyzed, except for negative pressure therapy. Three relevant and recently published studies on the sequential closure of the abdominal wall (with mesh or sutures) plus negative pressure therapy were appraised. For this appraisal 2 retrospective and one prospective study were included. The EBT-TACS meeting was attended by representatives of 6 Universities and following recommendations were generated: (1) the association of negative pressure therapy and continuous fascia traction with mesh or suture and adjusted periodically appears to be a viable surgical strategy to treat peritoneostomies. (2) the primary dynamic abdominal closure with sutures or mesh appears to be more efficient and economically sound than leaving the patient with a gigantic hernia to undergo complex repair at a later date. New studies including larger number of patients classified according to their different presentations and diseases are needed to better define the best surgical treatment for patients with peritoneostomies.

Key words: Open abdomen; peritoniostomy; dynamic abdominal closure; fascia traction; negative pressure therapy; ventral hernia.




Historically, surgical principles invariably were based on restoring the normal anatomy by primarily and definitively repairing defects at single-stage surgical interventions. In the last decade, there was a multiplication of publications, particularly in trauma, emphasizing the importance of restoring the physiology in surgical patients. This greater attention to physiologic derangements led to the principle of "damage control surgery", where the abdomen is left open (laparostomy or peritoneostomy) in abbreviated surgeries with the intent to restore normal physiology before definitive repair of injuries1.

Nowadays, the concept of damage control surgery is well-established either for trauma or non-trauma patients1-3. It emphasizes the restoration of the physiologic stress delaying definite repair, which if attempted primarily and definitively, would lead to further deterioration of physiology; and thus the impossibility of improving patient's condition. The main indications for peritoneostomy include inability of closing the abdominal wall, documented intra-abdominal hypertension, abdominal compartment syndrome, need for abdominal drenage due to severe infection, and need for relaparotomies. Although leading to increased survival rates, damage control surgery is accompanied by challenging complications associated with the open abdomen. Ideally, abdominal closure should be performed expediatly but without compromising the patient's physiology1.

The need to manage a growing number of open abdomens has resulted in multiple different approaches with the intent to definitively perform abdominal closure in a timely fashion. These approaches are aimed at minimizing the development of giant ventral hernias4,5.

The studies on abdominal closure following damage control surgery involve multiple different dynamic techniques for primary abdominal closure. Due to the financial constrains and need for rationalized expenditures in health care systems, the Evidence-based Telemedicine - Trauma & acute Care Surgery (EBT-TACS) group opted for not including commercial systems available for abdominal closure, except for the vacuum (or negative-pressure) system. We performed a critical appraisal of the most relevant studies recently published on primary abdominal closure using dynamic and mesh-mediated suture. Recommendations were generated based on this appraisal of existing evidence on the topic5-8.



"Multicentre prospective study of fascial closure rate after open abdomen with vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction"6


A preliminary study demonstrated the efficacy of partial abdominal closure with vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction. With the goal to evaluate the rate of abdominal closure associated with that technique a multicentre prospective study was conducted. This study also aimed to identify complications and predictors of failure in closing the fascia associated with the technique.


What are the fascial closure rates, complications and predictors of failure in obtaining fascial closure associated with the vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction technique?

Main findings

In the intention-to-treat analysis, abdominal closure was achieved in 76% of the cases, while in the per-protocol analysis, the abdominal closure rate was 89%. Intestinal fistula rate, the most fearful complication, was 7.2% in this study. However, the authors could not clearly determine whether this complication rate was directly due to the technique studied. On the other hand, the presence of fistula was the only variable independently associated with the inability of closing the abdomen in the binary logistic regression analysis.

In a multivariate analysis, vacuum utilization for a period more than 14 days was independently associated with failure of fascia closure.

It was also noted a marked reduction in intra-abdominal pressure in patients with abdominal compartment syndrome. Multiple organs failure, measured using the SOFA score, was not altered by the use of the technique and the authors do not recommend use this score for evaluating the patient physiologic status. The in-hospital mortality was 29,3%.


- Prospective study allowing obtaining accurate data on studied variables and, due to its multicenter design, also allowing generalizing study findings;

- Exclusion criteria and classification of comorbities (vascular, surgical disease and trauma) well-defined, which facilitates understanding and applicability of study findings to clinical settings;

- Surgical technique well-described, including information on height and weight of recipients of mesh and fascia traction allowing replication in future comparisons;

- Study outcomes (rates of abdominal closure and complications) easily interpretable and transportable to clinical settings.


- There was no control group for a comparative analysis;

- Subjective exclusion criterion (anticipated usage of vacuum for at least 5 days) of little clinical value;

- Rates of abdominal closure and mortality reported together for various clinical conditions. The lack of subgroup analysis does not allow verification of potential benefit in particular clinical conditions. However, the small sample would limit the effect estimates in subgroups;

- The vacuum pressure was not determined a priori for different clinical conditions, being decided at the surgeon's discretion instead;

- No criteria were determined for timing of closure, which might influence secundary analyses of morbidity and mortality;

- Despite considering abdominal compartment syndrome of extreme importance, only 46 out of 151 patients had their intra-abdominal pressure measured with no reported criteria for its indication;

- There was no information on the management of patients who developed enteroatmospheric fistulas and their implications for the maintenance of the mesh and fascia traction;

- Although it was reported that there was no continuity of care by surgeons, which might reflect real life, technical errors cannot ignored and may compromise study outcomes;

- Even though complications were reported, no causality can be definitively established;

- The study did not perform analysis of patients who expired after facial closure. The evaluation of these deaths could have provided important information on limitations and contraindications of the intervention.



"One hundred percent fascial approximation can be achieved in the postinjury open abdomen with a sequential closure protocol"7


When utilizing only the vacuum-assisted method (VAC), the majority of studies reports variable rates of abdominal closure. This method in isolation is unable to reduce time to abdomen closure and its associated morbidity, the need for using biological meshes, and the need for complex abdominal reconstruction. The authors aimed at demonstrating that following a predefined protocol of sutures associated with VAC every 48hours it is possible to accomplish 100% abdominal closure rates during a study period of five years.


Does the use of a rigid vacuum-assisted protocol for abdominal closure followed by sequential fascial sutures reduce rates of complex abdominal reconstructions in patients who did not have their abdomen closed by day 3 after initial surgery?

Main findings

- Out of 51 patients, 29 patients who were operated accordingly to the study protocol had their abdomen closed on average 6.8 days;

- Out of 22 patients who did not follow the study protocol, only 12 (55%) achieved abdominal closure;

- Out of the 22 patients not following the protocol, 16 were excluded due to non-compliance with the 48 hour time interval between surgeries. Three fourth of these 16 patients had their abdomen closed at the third operation;

- 75% of the patients were followed up by an average of 8 months;

- Enteric injuries occurred in 48% of the patients in the study protocol group versus 59% in the non-protocol group. Mortality was 4% in each group.


- Study included a control group that utilized VAC in isolation (defined based on previous studies) in order to compare with VAC associated with fascial sutures;

- The study design included patients who did not have their abdomen closed after second surgery, which represents a very pragmatic criterion;

- Physiologic variables are comparable or even worse in the intervention group as compared with the control population;


- Retrospective study including a limited cohort (trauma patients who did not have the abdomen closed after second laparatomy) without control group;

- The costs involved with using the quantity of the sponges in the VAC system might be questionable due to the more recent and efficent systems for absortion of peritoneal edema available;

- The authors describe that don't reoperate the patient unless arise criteria worsening. It can promote the formation of undrained abdominal collections.



"Vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction for primary closure of the open abdomen in critically ill surgical patients"8


The failure of primarily closing the abdomen leads to increased complications such as enteroatmospheric fistulas, and poor quality of life due to the development of giant ventral hernias. Preliminary evidence suggests higher rates of abdominal wall closure with the utilization of continuous fascial traction for the open abdomen. Therefore, this study was conducted with the intent to evaluate the efficacy of vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction for primary closure of the open abdomen


Does the utilization of vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction for temporary abdominal closure improve the rate of primary abdominal closure as compared to methods not using continuous fascial traction?

Main findings

- The vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction method accomplished highers rates of primary abdominal closure, and consequently lower rates of giant incisional hernias;

- The underlying diagnosis and indication for peritoneostomia were independent predictors of primary abdominal closure and development of ventral hernia;

- Time to fascial closure was shorter in the vacuum and mesh-mediated group as compared to the control group;

- In severe acute pancreatitis, peritonitis and ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, the rate of abdminal closure was only 53%, which was lower than in other pathologies. The rates of closure were higher in patients who had the abdomen left open prophylacticaly or for the management of intra-abdominal hypertension, which is recognized by the authors as a potential source of selection bias.


- Although the study had a retrospective design, it included a control group allowing a comparative analysis to be performed;

- The study included an adjusted analysis accounting for potential confounders and biases related to the study outcomes;

- The authors reported confidence intervals for point estimates, which helps to interpret study findings and determing the precision of estimates. This is important when deciding whether study results are valid.


- Even though a logistic regression analysis is performed, the authors did not provide information on the quality of the model (i.e.: discrimminatory power, calibration and fitness of the logistic regression model constructed);

- The sample size of the study cohort is small resulting in less precision of stimates, which is reflected by wide confidence intervals;

- The study was conducted over a long period of 6 years, which might have suffered from changes in practice occurring over time.



A large number of damage control laparotomies is performed every day worldwide. While damage control principles are responsible for a reduction in mortality of severely ill surgical patients, it has also led to a growing number of patients left with the abdomen open (or peritonestomies). The surgical management of these patients is complex and was the goal of this critical appraisal of 3 recent studies on the topic.

The most relevant conclusions reached include:

1. Ideally, the abdomen should be closed within the shortest period of time possible after the original surgery.

2. The abdomen that is left open for more than 14 days will possibly never be closed during the initial hospitalization; and the patient will have a gigantic hernia that will require complex repair at a later date.

3. The open abdomen is the cause of a multitude of complications. Enteric fistulae is the most feared complication, occurring in approximately 7% of the patients, and associated with failure of closing the abdomen and high mortality.

4. Many factors are associated with failure in closure of the abdomen that was purposefully left open. The most important factors include the primary cause leading the surgeon to opt for the peritoneostomy (sepsis, pancreatitis, aortic aneurysm rupture, trauma etc.).

5. The 3 studies appraised suggest that continuous traction on the fascia (with sutures or mesh) together with negative pressure therapy, are associated with high success rates in closing the abdominal wall. One study suggested a success rate between 76 and 89%, while another 100% when the surgeon follows a well-defined protocol of re-operations and continuous fascial traction.


1. Vacuum and mesh-mediated together with continuous fascial traction (periodically adjusted) seems to result in higher rates of abdominal closure following damage control surgeries.

2. The sequential closure of the abdominal wall with continuous fascia traction (using mesh or suture) and negative pressure therapy seems to be more cost-effective and efficient than planned late giant ventral hernia reconstructions. O fechamento sequencial abdominal primário com terapia a vácuo, sutura e tração fascial mediada por tela parece ser mais econômico e eficiente do que a deixar o paciente com uma hérnia abdominal gigante e planejar uma reconstrução complexa muito tempo mais tarde. Surgeons should aim to definitively close the abdominal wall in a timely fashion.



1. Rotondo MF, Zonies DH. The damage control sequence and underlying logic. Surg Clin North Am. 1997(4);77:761-77.         [ Links ]

2. Finlay IG, Edwards TJ, Lambert AW. Damage control laparotomy. Br J Surg. 2004;91(1):83-5.         [ Links ]

3. Jansen JO, Loudon MA. Damage control surgery in a non-trauma setting. Br J Surg. 2007; 94(7):789-90.         [ Links ]

4. Tsuei BJ, Skinner JC, Bernard AC, Kearney PA, Boulanger BR. The open peritoneal cavity: etiology correlates with the likelihood of fascial closure. Am Surg. 2004;70(7):652-6.         [ Links ]

5. Petersson U, Acosta S, Björck M. Vacuum-assisted wound closure and mesh-mediated fascial traction--a novel technique for late closure of the open abdomen. World J Surg. 2007;31(11):2133-7.         [ Links ]

6. Acosta S, Bjarnason T, Petersson U, Pålsson B, Wanhainen A, Svensson M, et al. Multicentre prospective study of fascial closure rate after open abdomen with vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction. Br J Surg. 2011;98(5):735-43.         [ Links ]

7. Burlew CC, Moore EE, Biffl WL, Bensard DD, Johnson JL, Barnett CC. One hundred percent fascial approximation can be achieved in the postinjury open abdomen with a sequential closure protocol. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012;72(1):235-41.         [ Links ]

8. Rasilainen SK, Mentula PJ, Leppäniemi AK. Vacuum and mesh-mediated fascial traction for primary closure of the open abdomen in critically ill surgical patients. Br J Surg. 2012;99(12):1725-32.         [ Links ]

Correspondence to:
Dr. Fernando Ferreira



Statement: The opinions and assertions contained herein represent the private views of the participants of the Evidence-based Telemedicine - Trauma and Acute Care Surgery (TBE - CiTE) Journal Club, and are not to be construed as reflecting the views of the institutions that they represent.
EBT-TACS Journal Club: January 22nd, 2013, with the participation of the following institutions: Trauma Program of the Department of Surgery of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; Division of Trauma Surgery, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil; Department of General Surgery, Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto, Portugal; Division of Trauma & Surgical Critical Care, Department of Surgery, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, USA; Discipline of Trauma and Emergency Surgery, Department of Surgery and Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirao Preto, University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil; Department of Surgery Federal University of Minas Gerais, Trauma and Acute Care Surgery Division, Risoleta T. Neves Hospital, Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.

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