Hughes abdominal closure versus standard mass closure to reduce incisional hernias following surgery for colorectal cancer: the HART RCT.
O'Connell S., Islam S., Sewell B., Farr A., Knight L., Bashir N., Harries R., Jones S., Cleves A., Fegan G., Watkins A., Torkington J.
BackgroundIncisional hernias can cause chronic pain and complications and affect quality of life. Surgical repair requires health-care resources and has a significant associated failure rate. A prospective, multicentre, single-blinded randomised controlled trial was conducted to investigate the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the Hughes abdominal closure method compared with standard mass closure following surgery for colorectal cancer. The study randomised, in a 1 : 1 ratio, 802 adult patients (aged ≥ 18 years) undergoing surgical resection for colorectal cancer from 28 surgical departments in UK centres.InterventionHughes abdominal closure or standard mass closure.Main outcome measuresThe primary outcome was the incidence of incisional hernias at 1 year, as assessed by clinical examination. Within-trial cost-effectiveness and cost-utility analyses over 1 year were conducted from an NHS and a social care perspective. A key secondary outcome was quality of life, and other outcomes included the incidence of incisional hernias as detected by computed tomography scanning.ResultsThe incidence of incisional hernia at 1-year clinical examination was 50 (14.8%) in the Hughes abdominal closure arm compared with 57 (17.1%) in the standard mass closure arm (odds ratio 0.84, 95% confidence interval 0.55 to 1.27; p = 0.4). In year 2, the incidence of incisional hernia was 78 (28.7%) in the Hughes abdominal closure arm compared with 84 (31.8%) in the standard mass closure arm (odds ratio 0.86, 95% confidence interval 0.59 to 1.25; p = 0.43). Computed tomography scanning identified a total of 301 incisional hernias across both arms, compared with 100 identified by clinical examination at the 1-year follow-up. Computed tomography scanning missed 16 incisional hernias that were picked up by clinical examination. Hughes abdominal closure was found to be less cost-effective than standard mass closure. The mean incremental cost for patients undergoing Hughes abdominal closure was £616.45 (95% confidence interval -£699.56 to £1932.47; p = 0.3580). Quality of life did not differ significantly between the study arms at any time point.LimitationsAs this was a pragmatic trial, the control arm allowed surgeon discretion in the approach to standard mass closure, introducing variability in the techniques and equipment used. Intraoperative randomisation may result in a loss of equipoise for some surgeons. Follow-up was limited to 2 years, which may not have been enough time to see a difference in the primary outcome.ConclusionsHughes abdominal closure did not significantly reduce the incidence of incisional hernias detected by clinical examination and was less cost-effective at 1 year than standard mass closure in colorectal cancer patients. Computed tomography scanning may be more effective at identifying incisional hernias than clinical examination, but the clinical benefit of this needs further research.Future workAn extended follow-up using routinely collected NHS data sets aims to report on incisional hernia rates at 2-5 years post surgery to investigate any potential mortality benefit of the closure methods. Furthermore, the proportion of incisional hernias identified by a computed tomography scan (at 1 and 2 years post surgery), but not during clinical examination (occult hernias), proceeding to surgical repair within 3-5 years after the initial operation will be explored.Trial registrationThis trial is registered as ISRCTN25616490.FundingThis project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 26, No. 34. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.