A Comparison of Operative and Anesthetic Techniques for Inguinal Hernia Repair in Infants


      • Practitioner choice of surgical and anesthetic approach for pediatric inguinal hernia repairs (IHR) varies.
      • Laparoscopy with caudal anesthesia appears to be a safe and effective IHR option.
      • Open surgery with caudal anesthesia is the most efficient IHR method and caudal anesthesia significantly decreases post-operative timeared to general anesthesia.



      Pediatric inguinal hernia repair (IHR) is increasingly performed using minimally invasive surgery (MIS) but has only recently been described using caudal block without endotracheal intubation. We evaluated the surgical outcomes and resource utilization of infants undergoing hernia repair, comparing both the operative approach (open/MIS) and anesthetic technique (general anesthesia [GA]/caudal).


      All infants <1 year-of-age undergoing elective IHR without concomitant procedures from July 2016 to July 2021 at a single tertiary care teaching center were retrospectively reviewed. Eight surgeons and 25 anesthesiologists contributed patients, with approach dictated by practitioner preference.
      Data collected included patient demographics, surgical and anesthetic details, and operating room (OR) utilization metrics. Post-operative complications were evaluated and aggregated, including recurrent hernia, metachronous hernia, hematoma, hydrocele, testicular atrophy, and acquired cryptorchidism. Descriptive statistics were performed with R Studios (p<0.05).


      Of the 338 patients included for analysis, most underwent an open procedure (n=275) while anesthetic technique was evenly split between GA (n=185) and caudal (n=153). Most patients were male (87.6%) and born premature: mean gestational age of 31.4+/-4.1 weeks. MIS-to-Open conversion was noted once (3.3%) in the GA MIS group, but none in caudal. Median follow up was 2.5 (1.4–3.8) years. No differences were noted in aggregate surgical complication rates (p=0.4). The Caudal Open group had the shortest total OR time (p<0.01); caudal anesthesia shortened post-procedure times (p<0.01).


      MIS IHR performed under caudal block and sedation yields comparable complication rates compared to the open approach or GA. Open IHR with caudal blockade was the most efficient operative room utilization.


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