Outcomes after ventral incisional hernia (VIH) repair are measured by recurrence rate and subjective measures. No objective metrics evaluate functional outcomes after abdominal wall reconstruction. This study aimed to develop testing of abdominal wall strength (AWS) that could be validated as a useful metric.
Data were prospectively collected during 9 months from 35 patients. A total of 10 patients were evaluated before and after VIH repair, for a total of 45 encounters. The patients were tested simultaneously or in succession by two of three examiners. Data were collected for three tests: double leg lowering (DLL), trunk raising (TR), and supine reaching (SR). Raw data were compared and tested for validity, and continuous data were transformed to categorical data. Agreement was measured using the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for DLL and using kappa for the ordinal measures.
Simultaneous testing yielded the following interobserver reliability: DLL (0.96 and 0.87), TR (1.00 and 0.95), and SR (0.76). Reproducibility was assessed by consecutive tests, with correlation as follows: DLL (0.81), TR (0.81), and RCH (0.21). Due to poor interobserver reliability for the SR test compared with the DLL and TR tests, the SR test was excluded from calculation of an overall score. Based on raw data distribution from the DLL and TR tests, the DLL data were categorized into 10º increments, allowing construction of a 10-point score. The median AWS score was 5 (interquartile range [IQR], 4–7), and there was agreement within 1 point for 42 of the 45 encounters (93%).
The findings from this study demonstrate that the 10-point AWS score may measure AWS in an accurate and reproducible fashion, with potential for objective description of abdominal wall function of VIH patients. This score may help to identify patients suited for abdominal wall reconstruction while measuring progress after VIH repair. Further longitudinal outcomes studies are needed.