Background: Non-cross-linked porcine acellular dermal matrices have been used clinically for abdominal wall repair; however, their biologic and mechanical properties and propensity to form visceral adhesions have not been studied. The authors hypothesized that their use would result in fewer, weaker visceral adhesions than polypropylene mesh when used to repair ventral hernias and form a strong interface with the surrounding musculofascia. Methods: Thirty-four guinea pigs underwent inlay repair of surgically created ventral hernias using polypropylene mesh, porcine acellular dermal matrix, or a composite of the two. The animals were killed at 4 weeks, and the adhesion tenacity grade and surface area of the repair site involved by adhesions were measured. Sections of the repair sites, including the implant-musculofascia interface, underwent histologic analysis and uniaxial mechanical testing. Results: The incidence of bowel adhesions to the repair site was significantly lower with the dermal matrix (8 percent, p < 0.01) and the matrix/mesh combination (0 percent, p < 0.001) than with polypropylene mesh alone (70 percent). The repairs made with the matrix or the matrix/mesh combination, compared with the polypropylene mesh repairs, had significantly lower mean adhesion surface areas [12.8 percent (p < 0.001), 9.2 percent (p < 0.001), and 79.9 percent] and grades [0.6 (p < 0.001), 0.6 (p < 0.001), and 2.9]. The dermal matrix underwent robust cellular and vascular infiltration. The ultimate tensile strength at the implant-musculofascia interface was similar in all groups. Conclusions: Porcine acellular dermal matrix becomes incorporated into the host tissue and causes fewer adhesions to repair sites than does polypropylene mesh, with similar implant-musculofascia interface strength. It also inhibits adhesions to adjacent dermal matrix in the combination repairs. It has distinct advantages over polypropylene mesh for complex abdominal wall repairs, particularly when material placement directly over bowel is unavoidable.
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