A pragmatic, evidence-based approach to coding for abdominal wall reconstruction

Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Ambiguity exists defining abdominal wall reconstruction (AWR) and associated Current Procedural Terminology code usage in the context of ventral hernia repair (VHR), especially with recent adoption of laparoscopic and robotic-assisted AWR techniques. Current guidelines have not accounted for the spectrum of repair complexity and have relied on expert opinion. This study aimed to develop an evidence-based definition and coding algorithm for AWR based on myofascial releases performed. Methods: Three vignettes and associated outcomes were evaluated in adult patients who underwent elecive VHR with mesh between 2013 and 2020 in the Abdominal Core Health Quality Collaborative including: (1) no myofascial release (NR), (2) posterior rectus sheath myofascial release (PRS), and (3) PRS with transversus abdominis release or external oblique release (PRS-TA/EO). The primary outcome measure was operative time based on the following categories (min): 0–59, 60–119, 120–179, 180–239, and 240 + ; secondary outcomes included disease severity measures and 30-day postoperative outcomes. Results: 15,246 patients were included: 7287(NR), 2425(PRS), and 5534(PRS-TA/EO). Operative time increased based on myofascial releases performed: 180–239 min (p < 0.05): NR(5%), PRS(23%), PRS-TA/EO(28%) and greater than 240 min (p < 0.05): NR (4%), PRS (17%), PRS-TA/EO(44%). A dose–response effect was observed for all secondary outcome measures indicative of three distinct levels of patient complexity and outcomes for each of the three vignettes. Conclusion: AWR is defined as VHR including myofascial release. Coding for AWR should reflect the actual effort used to manage these patients. We propose an evidence-based approach to AWR coding that focuses on myofascial release and is inclusive of minimally invasive techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHernia : the journal of hernias and abdominal wall surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Abdominal wall reconstruction
  • Billing
  • Coding
  • Current procedural terminology
  • Ventral hernia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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