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 ¤ Introduction
 ¤ Case Report
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 Table of Contents     
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 308-310

Complexities in the management of a Richter's supraumbilical hernia with colocutaneous fistula in a patient with morbid obesity: A case report with a review of literature

Department of Minimal Access Surgery and Surgical Gastroenterology, Belle Vue Clinic, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Date of Submission20-Mar-2021
Date of Decision10-May-2021
Date of Acceptance14-May-2021
Date of Web Publication16-Jul-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Pallawi Priya
Department of Minimal Access Surgery and Surgical Gastroenterology, Belle Vue Clinic, Kolkata, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmas.JMAS_99_21

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 ¤ Abstract 

Abdominal wall Richter's hernia is rare. The usual presentation is with irreducibility, obstruction and strangulation. Occasionally, enterocutaneous fistula containing small bowel has been reported. Management is frequently difficult due to emergency presentation and contamination. A 60-year-old male with a history of suture repair of umbilical hernia presented with faecal discharge from a long-standing recurrent hernia in the background of obesity and history of pulmonary embolism. There were no features of peritonitis or obstruction. After optimisation, we took the patient for a diagnostic laparoscopy with curative intent. Diagnostic laparoscopy revealed a Richter's hernia containing transverse colon. The patient was treated with resection of the involved colonic segment, anastomosis, complete excision of the fistula tract along with surrounding skin, negative pressure wound therapy and delayed skin closure. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a spontaneous umbilical Richter's hernia complicated with a colocutaneous fistula. Management was challenging due to emergency presentation, multiple comorbidities as well as faecal contamination. Minimal access approach may have helped by decreasing the contamination and surgical site infection in the postoperative period.

Keywords: Colocutaneous fistula, enterocutaneous fistula, Richter's hernia

How to cite this article:
Baig SJ, Priya P. Complexities in the management of a Richter's supraumbilical hernia with colocutaneous fistula in a patient with morbid obesity: A case report with a review of literature. J Min Access Surg 2022;18:308-10

How to cite this URL:
Baig SJ, Priya P. Complexities in the management of a Richter's supraumbilical hernia with colocutaneous fistula in a patient with morbid obesity: A case report with a review of literature. J Min Access Surg [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Jul 2];18:308-10. Available from:

 ¤ Introduction Top

Richter's hernia was first described in 1785 by August Gottlied Richter, a German surgeon.[1] This rare hernia is characterised by a part of the bowel circumference, usually the anti-mesenteric part, getting trapped in a hernia defect leading to ischaemic necrosis. It presents with pain, obstruction or peritonitis. An enterocutaneous fistula (ECF) is a rare presentation of Richter's hernia.

Here, we describe the management of a supraumbilical, Swiss-cheese Richter's hernia with a colocutaneous fistula in a patient with morbid obesity. We also present a review of literature on abdominal wall Richter's hernia.

 ¤ Case Report Top

A 60-year-old male with a body mass index of 48 kg/m2, hypertension, immobility, sleep apnoea and a history of pulmonary embolism presented to emergency with the complaints of discharge of stool from a neglected 10-year-old hernia. He had no pain and features of obstruction. There was a history of suture repair of a supraumbilical hernia 15 years ago.

On examination, there was a lump in the left supraumbilical region with faecal discharge from multiple openings in the skin [Figure 1]. There was cellulitis of the surrounding skin.
Figure 1: Initial presentation with stools coming out of openings in the abdominal wall

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General examination revealed tachycardia, hypoxaemia and laboured breathing. Laboratory tests showed leucocytosis, hypoxaemia and hypercarbia. A computed tomography scan showed multiple defects with a composite maximum width of 8 cm. The large hernia sac contained a transverse colon. There was a breach of the colon at one point showing ECF. There were no features of peritonitis or obstruction.

We optimised the patient with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH), pneumatic compression device stockings, chest physiotherapy, nutrition, wound dressing and antibiotics. We operated on him 48 hours after admission.

We did a diagnostic laparoscopy for assessment and planning which showed extensive bowel and omental adhesions around the defect. We did adhesiolysis till the loop of the colon containing the colocutaneous fistula was isolated [Figure 2]a. We divided the two ends with staplers [Figure 2]b and did a stapled intracorporeal anastomosis. We excised the skin with the external openings along with the entire sac. The final fascial defect was 10 cm × 15 cm [Figure 2]c which was closed with a running suture (1-0 PDS) and negative pressure wound dressing (NPWT) was applied [Figure 3].
Figure 2: (a) Colonic loop seen entering the defect (b) Both ends of colonic loop divided with staplers. Swiss-cheese defect is seen (c) Final defect after excision of the skin, subcutaneous tissue and fistula tract

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Figure 3: Negative pressure wound therapy applied to the final defect

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The patient was in the intensive care unit for 2 days. He showed satisfactory recovery and was discharged on the 10th day. We continued LMWH, CPAP and NPWT. We did secondary suturing of the wound on post-operative day 20.

The patient is on a physiotherapy and weight loss regime. A surgical weight loss is planned once the patient is fit followed by a definitive hernia repair.

 ¤ Discussion Top

Abdominal wall is an uncommon site for Richter's hernia. ECF after an abdominal wall Richter's hernia is even rarer. Very few reports exist in the published literature.[2],[3],[4] To our knowledge, there are no reports of a colocutaneous fistula in umbilical Richter's hernia.

The aetiology of Richter's hernia is a defect too small to incorporate the whole bowel circumference. Increased intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) may be a contributing factor.[2] Hence, although the maximum defect width in our patient was 8 cm, the colonic wall that became ischaemic was one of the small defects, as seen in the specimen [Figure 4]. Our patient may have had a high IAP due to obesity and laboured breathing secondary to sleep apnoea. ECF in a Richter's hernia has been attributed to chronic bowel ischaemia and sustained inflammation.[5]
Figure 4: Final specimen showing the colocutaneous fistula

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Interestingly, our patient was prone to crying spells. Another patient prone to crying easily presenting with Richter's hernia and ECF has been reported by Chen et al.[2]

The patient had morbid obesity with sleep apnoea. It is known that these patients fare poorly after open surgery and there are higher wound-related complications in patients with obesity. Since the patient was not in obstruction and was haemodynamically stable, laparoscopy was our first choice.

We did an anastomosis because there was no intraperitoneal contamination allowing us to avoid a stoma. Obese patients are reported to have a higher stoma-related complication.

We reduced local sepsis of the presenting wound by antibiotics given for 48 h preoperatively. This limited the extent of the skin and fat excision as well as intraoperative contamination. We routinely use NPWT in contaminated wounds and it has given good results in our hands.

 ¤ Conclusion Top

This is the first report of an umbilical Richter's hernia complicated with a colocutaneous fistula. Laparoscopy, radical debridement, NPWT and medical optimisation contributed to a good outcome in this case.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form, the legal guardian has given his consent for images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The guardian understands that names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 ¤ References Top

Rutkow IM. A selective history of hernia surgery in the late eighteenth century: The treatises of Percivall Pott, Jean Louis Petit, D. August Gottlieb Richter, Don Antonio de Gimbernat, and Pieter Camper. Surg Clin North Am 2003;83:1021-44.  Back to cited text no. 1
Chen W, Liu L, Huang H, Jiang M, Zhang T. A case report of spontaneous umbilical enterocutaneous fistula resulting from an incarcerated Richter's hernia, with a brief literature review. BMC Surg 2017;17:15.  Back to cited text no. 2
Earle DB, McLellan JA. Repair of umbilical and epigastric hernias. Surg Clin North Am 2013;93:1057-89.  Back to cited text no. 3
Cikman O, Kiraz HA, Ozkan OF, Adam G, Celik A, Karaayvaz M. An extremely rare complication of Meckel's diverticulum: Enterocutaneous fistulization of umbilical hernia. Arq Bras Cir Dig 2015;28:152-3.  Back to cited text no. 4
Elenwo SN, Igwe PO, Jamabo RS, Sonye US. Spontaneous entero-labial fistula complicating Richters hernia: Report of a case. Int J Surg Case Rep 2016;20:27-9.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


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