Since the introduction of the Bassini method in 1887, more than 70 types of pure tissue repair have been reported in the surgical literature. An unacceptable recurrence rate and prolonged postoperative pain and recovery time after tissue repair along with our understanding of the metabolic origin of inguinal hernias led to the concept of tension-free hernioplasty with mesh. Currently, the main categories of inguinal hernia repair are the open repairs and the laparoscopic repairs. In the open category, repair of the hernia is achieved by pure tissue approximation or by tension-free mesh repair. The most commonly performed tissue repairs are those of Bassini, Shouldice, and to a lesser extent McVay. In the tension-free mesh repair category, the mesh is placed in front of the transversalis fascia, such as with the Lichtenstein tension-free hernioplasty, or behind the transversalis fascia in the preperitoneal space, such as during the Nyhus, Rives, Read, Stoppa, Wantz, and Kugel procedures. Numerous comparative randomized trials have clearly demonstrated the superiority of the tension-free mesh repair over the traditional tissue approximation method. Placing mesh behind the transversalis fascia, although a sound concept, requires extensive dissection in the highly complex preperitoneal space and can lead to injury of the pelvic structures, major hematoma formation, or both. In addition, according to the prospective randomized comparative study of mesh placement in front of versus behind the transversalis fascia, the latter offers no advantage over the former, and it is more difficult to perform, learn, and teach. More importantly, preperitoneal mesh implantation (via open and laparoscopic procedure) leads to obliteration of the spaces of Retzius and Bogros, making certain vascular and urologic procedures, in particular radical prostatectomy and lymph node dissection, extremely difficult if not impossible. In conclusion, according to level A evidence from randomized comparative studies, (1) mesh repair is superior to pure tissue approximation repairs, and (2) mesh implantation in front of the transversalis fascia is superior, safer, and easier than open or laparoscopic mesh implantation behind the transversalis fascia.
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