An innovative procedure for repairing scrotal hernias is fast, cheap and highly successful.

With a 90% success rate at affected farms served by the Carthage (IL) Veterinary Service (CVS), veterinarian Doug Groth, DVM, says that's 30-40% better than surgical results.

Although scrotal hernias affect only 2% or fewer piglets in CVS client herds, if left untreated, they can cause serious problems.

A scrotal hernia or rupture occurs when the gut protrudes into the sac that holds the testicles. Groth explains that scrotal hernias are polygenic, which means the disorder is not attributed to a specific gene, making it difficult to select away from the trait.

Pigs with scrotal hernias are at increased risk for health problems and death due to infections and injury to the ruptured area, he says. And, ruptured pigs are subject to deep discounts by packers because they pose a great risk for contaminating carcasses during evisceration. Many packers will not even accept them.

New Procedure

The new procedure, which CVS introduced to clients in 2004 and Groth highlighted at the practice's annual swine conference held in Macomb, IL, is best done in conjunction with castration of pigs 3 to 5 days old, to assure the 90% success rate.

The treatment can be used on older pigs (up to about 18 days), but Groth says success rates are 20 to 40% lower. Treatment cost is about 30-35¢/pig.

By the numbers, the treatment is performed as follows:

Step 1. Reducing the Hernia

One person holds the ruptured pig by the back legs and gently reduces the hernia by depressing the protrusion back into the abdominal cavity.

Step 2. Reducing the Hernia

With a thumb or forefinger, apply pressure to the inguinal ring (the opening between the body and the scrotum) to keep the intestines in the body and the testicles in the scrotum. If the hernia cannot be reduced into the abdomen because the intestines are attached to the testicles or scrotum, CVS recommends euthanizing the pig. If it is difficult, but possible to manipulate the rupture, the treatment can still be attempted; however, success may be lower due to intestinal injury.

Step 3. Castration

While the pig is being held in the position described above, a second person castrates the pig. CVS recommends the “pull and cut” method of removing the testicles vs. a stretching method, because it reduces the rate of ruptures occurring after castration.

Steps 4-6. Taping

Immediately apply 1-in. Elasticon tape in a figure eight around the pig's rear legs and over the inguinal rings. Begin by carefully wrapping the left rear ham (or right side for a left-handed person), making sure the tape does not wrinkle or fold to avoid restricting circulation.

Pull the tape up through the legs and across the rear, just beside the tail head and over the inguinal ring on the right side of the pig (or left if you started on the right).

Complete the figure eight by wrapping the tape around the opposite ham, and then wrap tape around the flank of the pig to help stabilize the treatment.

For older pigs or those with very large ruptures, Groth recommends reinforcing the entire taped area with a second layer of tape. No antibiotic wound powder, sprays or antiseptics are required.

Removing the Tape

Tape should be removed 48 hours after application to avoid restricting growth. When the tape is removed, you may notice a small, fluid-filled pocket. Groth says the body will quickly absorb this fluid.

Groth reports clients are very pleased to get the job of repairing scrotal hernias done without the risk of infection or wear and tear on pigs that traditional surgical repair presents.

The downside is the procedure requires two people. “But it doesn't take much time — only about three or four minutes per pig once you've done it once or twice,” says Groth.

For more information, contact Groth at groth@hogvet.com.