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Fitzgibbons hopes to prevent incisional hernias caused by surgeries

June 12, 2019

Chair of the Creighton School of Medicine Department of Surgery, Dr. Robert Fitzgibbons is researching abdominal incisional hernias that occur in patients after surgery.

When a person has an operation of the abdomen, Fitzgibbons says that between 15-20 percent of the time a hernia will develop through the incision that was made.

An abdominal hernia is a hole in the abdominal wall. Organs can protrude through this hole, which can be very painful.

Some hernias occur after surgery through the incision when surgery fails to heal and the muscle separates. This results in a hole beneath the skin that organs can protrude through.

But the most feared complication is a strangulation of an organ that gets caught at the neck of the hernia and loses its blood supply.

In the hopes of finding better treatment for these hernias or even a preventative medication that could decrease the number of incidents, Fitzgibbons and a team of Creighton University scientists, research fellows and students are comparing tissue samples from Live On Nebraska and samples taken from patients after an incisional hernia repair surgery.

Patients who undergo surgery to fix the hernia consent to tissue samples being take from excess tissue that otherwise would be discarded, Fitzgibbons said. These are then compared to the samples taken from deceased donors from Live On Nebraska, which act as the controls.

“The only other sources to get these tissues would be from patients undergoing elective surgery, but so much surgery is done laparoscopically that it makes it difficult to find patients,” Fitzgibbons said. “The samples from Live On Nebraska are better because the donor was presumably healthier than someone who is in need of a surgery.”

Fitzgibbons used 10 samples from Live On Nebraska to conduct the study, which hopefully will lead to a grant.

This is the final piece our seven-part series outlining the ways organ and tissue donors from Nebraska benefit many through research projects.



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