|The following is an excerpt from an article by Udwadia TE. The Inguinal hernia repair: The total picture. J Min Access Surg 2006;2:144-6. One of the key points is that mesh is, unfortunately, not available to most of the world.|
Papers on hernia repair at conferences and publication on hernia repair in journals are made by herniologists who work in ideal conditions in developed countries and urban centres in the developing world. Cocooned in their sophistication they kneel at the alter of what they believe is "evidence based medicine". Sadly, most do not know (and some do not care) about the problems of hernia repair in 70% of the world population, where for example, in East Africa patients with strangulated hernia get no treatment.
In 1998, I was interested and excited to learn that surgeons in rural areas of India were doing tension-free repairs using indigenous mesh which was autoclavable (the only mean of sterilization to them) and had similar weave, tensile strength, chemical composition and biological response as commercially available mesh. God in his wisdom made mosquitoes endemic in the developing world, necessitating the manufacturing of cheap mosquito-net for mass use.
As the editor of Indian Journal of Surgery I accepted for publication the article on "Preliminary multicentric trial of cheap indigenous mosquito net cloth for tension free hernia repair". By doing so I invited the wrath of Heads of Department in prestigious Indian teaching hospitals who questioned my Editorial propriety in accepting an article with no animal toxicology study, no controlled trial and questionable follow up. I gently explained my acceptance of the article by reminding them that the first clinical mesh study was done without experimental work in 1958, that the Heads of Department were in a stronger position to do such a study than the rural surgeon, that research not applicable to the needs of a developing country was unethical and that follow-up in a village or small town was far more reliable than urban cities because small town surgeon knew each one of his patient for years and by name.
I am aware that like those Heads of Department, all herniologists who talk and write on hernia will find the use of this simple cheap mesh (cost ratio 1:2000) surgical blasphemy. History of hernia repair teaches us that Bassini, Shouldice, Lichtenstein much after they advocated their procedure were held in ridicule. In 1972, the role of laparoscopy in surgery was blasphemy and both Semm who performed the first laparoscopic appendicectomy and Muhe who performed the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy were ostracized for years for their blasphemy. Appropriately George Bernard Shaw wrote "Most truths start off as blasphemy". Time will tell if this ingenious work of rural Indian surgeons is a truth. If it is, it will be a true landmark in the history of hernia repair, for it will provide all the benefits of the Lichtenstein procedure, at virtually no cost for the mesh, underscoring the true role of surgery - good surgical care too all people, in all places.