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 ::  Abstract
 :: Introduction
 :: Case Report
 :: Discussion
 ::  References
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  Table of Contents     
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 62  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 267-268

Obturator hernia: An uncommon cause of small bowel obstruction

Department of General Surgery, Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar Medical College and Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission14-Aug-2016
Date of Decision29-Aug-2016
Date of Acceptance17-Sep-2016
Date of Web Publication20-Oct-2016

Correspondence Address:
Dr. S Shreshtha
Department of General Surgery, Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar Medical College and Hospital, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0022-3859.192663

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 :: Abstract 

A 70 year old lady presented to surgery emergency with small bowel obstruction without any obvious etiology. On exploration she was found to have an obstructed obturator hernia, which is a rare pelvic hernia with an incidence of 0.07-1.4% of all intra-abdominal hernias. Diagnosis is often delayed until laparotomy for bowel obstruction. Strangulation is frequent and mortality remains high (25%). Early diagnosis and surgical treatment contributes greatly to reduce the mortality and morbidity rates. A variety of techniques have been described, however surgical repair has not been standardized. It is an important diagnosis to be considered in elderly patients with intestinal obstruction.

Keywords: Hannington-Kiff sign, Howship—Romberg sign, intra-abdominal hernia, obturator hernia

How to cite this article:
Shreshtha S. Obturator hernia: An uncommon cause of small bowel obstruction. J Postgrad Med 2016;62:267-8

How to cite this URL:
Shreshtha S. Obturator hernia: An uncommon cause of small bowel obstruction. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Jun 6];62:267-8. Available from:

 :: Introduction Top

Obturator hernia is a rare pelvic hernia with an incidence of 0.07%–1.4% of all intra-abdominal hernias [1] and accounts for 0.2%–5.8% of all mechanical small bowel obstruction cases. It has been found to predominantly affect elderly females.[2] Diagnosis is often delayed until laparotomy for bowel obstruction.[3] Strangulation is frequent and mortality remains high (25%–47.6%[4],[5]). Primary closure of the hernia defect is difficult because adjacent tissues are not easily mobilized. A variety of techniques have been described, however surgical repair has not been standardized.

 :: Case Report Top

A 70-year-old female presented to the surgical emergency with complaint of colicky pain in the whole abdomen along with bilious vomiting and abdominal distension for over 10 days. Physical examination revealed abdominal distension, exaggerated bowel sounds, absence of tenderness and rectal ballooning. There was no evidence of previous surgical scars or external hernias. Biochemical parameters were normal; however, the patient had evidence of previous healed pulmonary tuberculosis and emphysema on chest X-ray. Contrast-enhanced computed tomography abdomen of the patient revealed evidence of small bowel obstruction, but no obvious etiology. Thus, the patient was taken for emergency laparotomy via midline vertical incision. Upon exploration, she was found to have left-sided obstructed Richter-type obturator hernia [Figure 1] with tip of involved bowel having questionable vascularity. The hernia sac was thus approached via upper medial thigh incision and reduced [Figure 2]. Resection anastomosis of the involved segment was done along with preperitoneal mesh plug repair of hernial orifice. The patient was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit for ventilatory support. She developed ventilator-associated pneumonia and expired on postoperative day 7. During the survival, there was no evidence of wound dehiscence or anastomotic breakdown.
Figure 1: Left-sided obstructed Richter-type obturator hernia discovered upon exploratory laparotomy

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Figure 2: Hernial sac and incarcerated bowel seen after reduction

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 :: Discussion Top

Obturator hernia is an extremely uncommon pelvic and intra-abdominal hernia. The hernia sac protrudes via obturator foramen located in the anterolateral pelvic wall bilaterally. It is characteristically seen in elderly derelict females. The female predominance has been contributed to pregnancy, which causes relaxation of the pelvic peritoneum and a wider and more horizontal obturator canal.[6] This hernia is seen thrice more often on the right side than the left, along with a rare but well-documented, concurrence of bilateral as well as femoral hernias.[7] Hernia is asymptomatic till bowel obstructs and presents with acute or intermittent small bowel obstruction. In a typical case, the patient may complain of pain along the medial aspect of thigh exacerbated by the movement of hip or thigh consequent to compression of obturator nerve.[1] This Howship–Romberg sign is found in only 15%–50% cases.[8] Another, Hannington-Kiff sign (absent adductor reflux in the thigh) is more specific but much less commonly seen.[8] Various investigation modalities employed to assist diagnosis include ultrasonography, herniography, and computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen. CT scan of the abdomen has maximum specificity and sensitivity [8] and is recommended for the suspected obturator hernia and intestinal obstruction without obvious cause. The accuracy of CT scan in diagnosing obturator hernia is approximately 90%,[9],[10] higher with strangulated hernias. It may reveal small bowel loops behind the pectineus muscle, air in the under pubic channel.[2]

For acute presentation, midline infraumbilical vertical approach is preferred, while other approaches such as retropubic, preperitoneal, groin or laparoscopic approaches may be used if hernia is diagnosed preoperatively. The laparoscopic surgery has the advantages of less postoperative pain, shorter hospital stay and lower complications but is reserved for the nonstrangulated hernia. Both transabdominal and extraperitoneal approaches have been described with transabdominal approach preferred for the emergency setting.[11] Very often obturator hernia is detected during totally extraperitoneal (TEP) repair for inguinal hernias. This reflects the importance of inspecting all the myopectineal orifices during the TEP approach to allow for the diagnosis and repair of asymptomatic obturator hernias.[12]

The author concludes that obturator hernia is an important diagnosis to be considered in elderly patients with intestinal obstruction. Early diagnosis and surgical treatment contribute significantly to reduce the mortality and morbidity rates.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 :: References Top

Mandarry MT, Zeng SB, Wei ZQ, Zhang C, Wang ZW. Obturator hernia – A condition seldom thought of and hence seldom sought. Int J Colorectal Dis 2012;27:133-41.  Back to cited text no. 1
Farthouat P, Thouard H, Meusnier F, De Kerangal X, Pourrière M, Flandrin P. Strangulated obturator hernia. Contribution of abdominal x-ray computed tomography. J Chir (Paris) 1996;133:284-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Munoz-Forner E, Garcia-Botello S, Lopez-Mozos F, Marti-Obiol R, Martinez-Lloret A, Lledó S. Computed tomographic diagnosis of obturator hernia and its surgical management: A case series. Int J Surg 2007;5:139-42.  Back to cited text no. 3
Bergstein JM, Condon RE. Obturator hernia: Current diagnosis and treatment. Surgery 1996;119:133-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Chan KV, Chan CK, Yau KW, Cheung MT. Surgical morbidity and mortality in obturator hernia: A 10-year retrospective risk factor evaluation. Hernia 2014;18:387-92.  Back to cited text no. 5
Hsu CH, Wang CC, Jeng LB, Chen MF. Obturator hernia: A report of eight cases. Am Surg 1993;59:709-11.  Back to cited text no. 6
Green BT. Strangulated obturator hernia: Still deadly. South Med J 2001;94:81-3.  Back to cited text no. 7
Cai X, Song X, Cai X. Strangulated intestinal obstruction secondary to a typical obturator hernia: A case report with literature review. Int J Med Sci 2012;9:213-5.  Back to cited text no. 8
Ijiri R, Kanamaru H, Yokoyama H, Shirakawa M, Hashimoto H, Yoshino G. Obturator hernia: The usefulness of computed tomography in diagnosis. Surgery 1996;119:137-40.  Back to cited text no. 9
Schmidt PH, Bull WJ, Jeffery KM, Martindale RG. Typical versus atypical presentation of obturator hernia. Am Surg 2001;67:191-5.  Back to cited text no. 10
Bryant TL, Umstot RK Jr. Laparoscopic repair of an incarcerated obturator hernia. Surg Endosc 1996;10:437-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
Yau KK, Siu WT, Fung KH, Li MK. Small-bowel obstruction secondary to incarcerated obturator hernia. Am J Surg 2006;192:207-8.  Back to cited text no. 12


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

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