BACKGROUND: Lichtenstein's technique is considered the reference technique for inguinal hernia repair. Recent trials suggest that the totally extraperitoneal (TEP) technique may lead to reduced proportions of chronic pain. A systematic review evaluating the benefits and harms of the TEP compared with Lichtenstein's technique is needed. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The review was performed according to the 'Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews'. Searches were conducted until January 2012. Patients with primary uni- or bilateral inguinal hernias were included. Only trials randomising patients to TEP and Lichtenstein were included. Bias evaluation and trial sequential analysis (TSA) were performed. The error matrix was constructed to minimise the risk of systematic and random errors. Thirteen trials randomized 5404 patients. There was no significant effect of the TEP compared with the Lichtenstein on the number of patients with chronic pain in a random-effects model risk ratio (RR 0.80; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.61 to 1.04; p = 0.09). There was also no significant effect on number of patients with recurrences in a random-effects model (RR 1.41; 95% CI 0.72 to 2.78; p = 0.32) and the TEP technique may or may not be associated with less severe adverse events (random-effects model RR 0.91; 95% CI 0.73 to 1.12; p = 0.37). TSA showed that the required information size was far from being reached for patient important outcomes. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: TEP versus Lichtenstein for inguinal hernia repair has been evaluated by 13 trials with high risk of bias. The review with meta-analyses, TSA and error matrix approach shows no conclusive evidence of a difference between TEP and Lichtenstein on the primary outcomes chronic pain, recurrences, and severe adverse events.
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