Elective repair of simple (uncomplicated) inguinal and femoral hernias avoids incarceration and bowel obstruction (complicated presentations). To identify factors that perturb this strategy, we analyzed the records of 1,859 consecutive nonpediatric patients with groin hernias. Incarceration or bowel obstruction prompted operation in 22 of 77 (29%) women and in 15 of 34 (44%) patients with femoral hernia. Patients presenting with bowel obstruction were significantly older than those with incarceration only and/or uncomplicated presentation, and 13 of 25 (52%) required resection of necrotic bowel. Mortality was limited to five patients of advanced age with groin hernia and bowel obstruction. Four of the five patients had undergone resection of necrotic bowel. Complicated presentations of groin hernias are associated with a higher proportion of women and patients with femoral hernias. Gangrenous bowel was encountered only in those patients with groin hernia and bowel obstruction. Early diagnosis and elective repair of uncomplicated hernias should remain our strategy in patients of all ages.
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