INTRODUCTION: There is a need for hernia centers and specialist hernia surgeons because of the increasing complexity of hernia surgery procedures due to new techniques, more difficult cases and a tailored approach with an increasing public awareness demanding optimal treatment results. Therefore, the requirements for accredited/certified hernia centers and specialist hernia surgeons should be formulated by the international and national hernia societies, while taking account of the respective health care systems.
METHODS: The European Hernia Society (EHS) has appointed a working group composed of 18 hernia experts from all regions of Europe (ACCESS Group-Hernia Accreditation and Certification of Centers and Surgeons-Working Group) to formulate scientifically based requirements for hernia centers and specialist hernia surgeons while taking into consideration different health care systems. A consensus was reached on the key questions by means of a meeting, a telephone conference and the exchange of contributions. The requirements formulated below were deemed implementable by all participating hernia experts in their respective countries.
RESULTS: The ACCESS Group suggests for an adequately equipped hernia center the following requirements: (a) to be accredited/certified by a national or international hernia society, (b) to perform a higher case volume in all types of hernia surgery compared to an average general surgery department in their country, (c) to be staffed by experienced hernia surgeons who are beyond the learning curve for all types of hernia surgery recommended in the guidelines and are responsible for education and training of hernia surgery in their department, (d) to treat hernia patients according to the current guidelines and scientific recommendations, (e) to document each case prospectively in a registry or quality assurance database (f) to perform follow-up for comparison of their own results with benchmark data for continuous improvement of their treatment results and ensuring contribution to research in hernia treatment. To become a specialist hernia surgeon, the ACCESS Group suggests a general surgeon to master the learning curve of all open and laparo-endoscopic hernia procedures recommended in the guidelines, perform a high caseload and additionally to implement and fulfill the other requirements for a hernia center.
CONCLUSION: Based on the above requirements formulated by the European Hernia Society for accredited/certified hernia centers and hernia specialist surgeons, the national and international hernia societies can now develop their own programs, while taking account of their specific health care systems.