Objectives. Between May 1, 1992 and August 1, 1996, 759 consecutive children younger than 10 years of age were evaluated and treated for known inguinal hernia. These children were participating in a prospective investigation of the potential role of diagnostic laparoscopy in the evaluation of the contralateral inguinal anatomy. The initial two series of data (parts I and II of this three-part series) were previously presented at the 1993 and 1995 American Academy of Pediatrics meetings. Methods. Of 759 patients, 100 children were diagnosed with bilateral inguinal hernias and therefore did not undergo laparoscopy. Thirty-two patients did not undergo laparoscopic evaluation due to technical difficulties or complicated clinical situations. The patient's contralateral inguinal region was carefully examined under anesthesia, and predictions were made regarding the likelihood of contralateral patent processus vaginalis (CPPV). Six hundred twenty-seven children underwent diagnostic laparoscopy to confirm the presence or absence of CPPV. Laparoscopy was initially exclusively performed through the umbilicus prior to repair of the known hernia, but over the last 26 months, 250 children successfully underwent laparoscopy through the ipsilateral hernia sac. Results. Of patients younger than 1 year of age, 114 were diagnosed with both a known unilateral hernia and CPPV, whereas 132 had a unilateral hernia only (46% versus 54%). Among children older than 1 year of age, 148 (39%) were diagnosed with unilateral hernia and CPPV, and 233 (61%) were diagnosed with a unilateral hernia alone. After examination under anesthesia, 233 of the 627 patients were suspected of having a CPPV, and 107 were confirmed at laparoscopy (46%). The remaining 394 patients were not believed to have a CPPV. Normal inguinal anatomy was confirmed in 234 patients (59%), but 160 patients were found at laparoscopy to have a CPPV (41%). Conclusions. A contralateral patent processus vaginalis may be present in a surprising number of young patients being evaluated for a known inguinal hernia. Laparoscopy can be performed without a separate incision when the ipsilateral hernia sac is of sufficient width to allow passage of the scope. Laparoscopy is the best method for evaluating the contralateral inguinal region, particularly in younger children, as it prevents unnecessary inguinal exploration and it decreases the risk that the child will later present with a clinical contralateral hernia.
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