McVay Hernia Repair Technique

The McVay hernia repair, historically known as the Cooper’s ligament repair, is a surgical approach developed for the treatment of inguinal (relating to the groin) and femoral (relating to the upper thigh) hernias. Pioneered by Dr. Chester McVay, this technique is distinguished by its utilization of Cooper’s ligament, offering an alternative to other hernia repair methods. Despite the evolution of surgical practices favoring tension-free mesh repairs, understanding the McVay technique is crucial for surgeons, especially in scenarios where mesh use is contraindicated (not recommended) or unavailable.

Key Features of the McVay Repair

Anatomical Restoration

The essence of the McVay repair lies in its anatomical approach, which involves suturing the transversus abdominis arch (a muscle layer in the abdominal wall) and the conjoint tendon (a tendinous structure formed by the joining of two muscles) directly to Cooper’s ligament (the periosteum of the pubic bone). This method aims to reconstruct the groin’s anatomy robustly and durably.

Tension-Based Technique

Similar to the traditional Bassini repair, the McVay method is a tension repair. It requires suturing tissues under tension, which can increase the risk of postoperative discomfort and hernia recurrence compared to tension-free alternatives.

Efficacy in Femoral Hernia Repairs

The technique is notably effective for femoral hernia repairs due to its specific reinforcement of the femoral canal, addressing a common and challenging type of hernia.

The McVay Technique Procedural Steps

The McVay hernia repair, known as well for its designation as the Cooper’s ligament repair, represents a traditional surgical method primarily employed in the treatment of inguinal and femoral hernias. This technique emphasizes the anatomical restoration of the groin’s structure by suturing the transversus abdominis arch and the conjoint tendon directly to Cooper’s ligament. Below is a detailed walkthrough of the McVay technique’s procedural steps:

  1. Initial Incision and Exposure: The procedure initiates with a surgical incision made over the hernia site within the inguinal region, aimed at exposing the inguinal canal and the herniated sac. The incision’s length is determined by the hernia’s size and the specific anatomical nuances of the patient.
  2. Hernia Sac Identification and Dissection: The next phase involves identifying the hernia sac and meticulously dissecting it away from the adjacent tissues. In the context of inguinal hernias, the sac typically manifests, protruding through the inguinal canal, whereas, for femoral hernias, it emerges below the inguinal ligament via the femoral canal.
  3. Hernia Sac Management: Following the dissection, the hernia sac is either repositioned back into the abdominal cavity—a process known as reduction—or surgically removed (excised) if repositioning is deemed unsafe.
    Suturing to Cooper’s Ligament: The cornerstone of the McVay repair involves the precise suturing of the transversus abdominis arch and the conjoint tendon to
  4. Cooper’s ligament, utilizing non-absorbable sutures. This suturing extends from the pubic tubercle (a bony prominence on the pubic bone) laterally towards the femoral vein for inguinal hernias and is extended further laterally for femoral hernias.
  5. Internal Ring Adjustment: An additional step may involve tightening the internal ring (an opening in the abdominal wall) to avert the recurrence of indirect inguinal hernias, accomplished by suturing the transversalis fascia (a layer of connective tissue) to the iliopubic tract (a fibrous band in the groin). This step is carefully executed to avoid constraining the spermatic cord in male patients.
  6. Wound Closure: The surgical incision is methodically closed in a layered fashion, beginning with the fascia (connective tissue) and culminating with the skin closure, to ensure a robust support for the repair and to foster optimal healing conditions.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of McVay Technique

  • Anatomical Reconstruction: The McVay repair offers a strong, anatomy-based solution, particularly beneficial for both inguinal and femoral hernias.
  • Non-Mesh Option: It provides an option for patients where mesh is contraindicated, unavailable, or not preferred, making it versatile in various clinical settings.


  • Postoperative Discomfort and Recurrence Risk: The inherent tension in the suture lines may lead to a higher likelihood of pain and hernia recurrence compared to tension-free mesh methods.
  • Surgical Complexity: The technique demands a comprehensive understanding of pelvic anatomy and precise surgical skills, potentially limiting its use to more experienced surgeons.

Current Clinical Application

While the advent of tension-free mesh repairs has led to a decline in the McVay technique’s prevalence, it retains significance in certain contexts. It is particularly relevant for patients unable to undergo mesh repairs and in settings where mesh is not accessible. Its historical and educational value continues to enrich the surgical community’s knowledge, especially for managing femoral hernias and in situations where mesh alternatives are sought.

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Comparative Analysis with Other Hernia Repair Techniques

McVay Technique vs. Lichtenstein Tension-Free Mesh Repair

The McVay repair’s tension-based approach contrasts with the Lichtenstein method’s tension-free, mesh-reinforced technique, which generally offers lower recurrence rates and reduced postoperative pain.

McVay Technique vs Laparoscopic Hernia Repair

Compared to minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques (surgery performed through small incisions using a camera), the McVay repair, being an open surgery, involves a larger incision and a potentially longer recovery period.

McVay Technique vs Shouldice Repair

While both the McVay and Shouldice repairs are tension-based, the Shouldice technique focuses on a four-layer reconstruction specifically for inguinal hernias, without employing mesh.

Dr. Iskandar’s Remarks

In current practice, the utility of McVay is mostly in emergency situations when there is a strangulated femoral hernia (a hernia that becomes trapped and loses blood supply). In that scenario, there is risk of mesh infection and a McVay repair would be the tissue method of choice to repair the femoral hernia.


The McVay hernia repair technique, with its unique application and historical significance, remains a valuable part of surgical education and practice. Although modern tension-free mesh and minimally invasive approaches have largely superseded it, the McVay repair persists as a viable option under specific circumstances. Its understanding is essential for surgeons, offering insights into the evolution of hernia repair techniques and providing alternatives in complex clinical scenarios.

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Posted on March 5, 2024

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Dr. Iskandar, MD, FACS is a board-certified general surgeon with fellowship training in minimally invasive surgery and bariatric surgery. He is an accredited Surgeons of Excellence in Hernia Surgery by the SRC. The Iskandar Complex Hernia Center is one of only two North Texas Hernia Centers deemed Centers of Excellence. As a globally respected complex hernia expert, he specializes in complex hernia repair and abdominal reconstruction. He is also an Associate Professor of Surgery at Texas A&M School of Medicine.