Success for local surgeon: Pig skin used to rectify incisional hernia

2011-03-14 00:00

A SKIN graft using skin from a pig could be the solution for patients with incisional hernias, a condition which develops in patients who have undergone multiple abdominal operations.

Dr Pieter de Bruyn of Pietermaritzburg Medi-Clinic in Payn Street said incisional hernias occur when a weakness in the muscle of the abdomen allows the tissues of the abdomen to protrude through the operation line.

He said the hernia appears as a bulge under the skin and can be painful or tender to the touch. He said the weakness in the muscle is caused by the incision made in a prior abdominal surgery.

Last week De Bruyn and another general practitioner from England, Dr Ian Daniels, performed an operation on Mariet Diedericks of Greytown using permacol (pig skin) instead of the usual mesh graft to tighten her abdominal muscles.

Diedericks has had three surgical incisions into her abdominal wall to examine her abdominal organs.

This has led to her developing an incisional hernia.

She said that every time the defect occurred she would have surgery to rectify it.

“I had a huge bulge on the operation area and the pain was killing me. Every time the [wound] would burst and I would go back to theatre. In January this year I developed a deformity of about 35 cm on my right side and I thought that was it for me,” explained Diedericks.

She said she consulted De Bruyn and arrangements were made for her to go to theatre.

De Bruyn said one layer of muscle tissue separated the pig skin and her intestines, covered by a fat layer and skin tissue that was sutured together.

“This is the only procedure to correct incisional hernia,” he said. “Permacol will strengthen the weakened muscle tissue around the previous operation area.

“Because she is diabetic she had sepsis on three occasions after being operated on. That left her muscle tissue weak and the mesh graft used to seal the opening could not hold.” said

De Bruyn said three attempts at a similar operation have failed in the province.

The pig skin is imported and the procedure is said to offer the only hope for people with incisional hernias.

The surgery is expensive, but is covered by some medical aids. In this procedure the skin used is estimated to cost around R55 000.

De Bruyn said people at risk of getting this complication are smokers, diabetics and obese people.

Diedericks is recovering at home and she said she is getting stronger every day.

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