Is the hernia mesh safe?
This is the most common question that patients who are facing hernia surgery ask me. The quick answer is "Yes". Hernia surgeons have been using mesh to repair hernias for decades. Literally millions of patients have been safely treated with hernia mesh. This has been true in surgical repairs for all of the various abdominal wall hernias including: inguinal hernia, umbilical hernia, incisional hernia, and ventral hernia.
Why do I hear about hernia mesh problems?
Over the decades, surgeons have learned much about the body's reaction to foreign materials such as mechanical heart valves, prosthetic hips, and hernia meshes. It was discovered that some patients will react poorly when mesh is in contact with their intestines. This has lead to more refined surgical techniques for hernia surgery and the development of safer meshes which are designed with a barrier to protect the intestines.
Many of the current advertisements regarding mesh lawsuits are in regard to mesh used in gynecologic procedures. Mesh complications were reported in female patients that underwent surgical treatment of pelvic organ prolapse (POP). It should be noted that this is very different from mesh surgical repair for stress urinary incontinence (SUI) where the risk of mesh complications is much smaller. The FDA provides helpful information about mesh utilized in gynecologic procedures on its website.
information on the FDA website
Additionally, some hernia mesh has been recalled when fractures of the mesh were noted. In some cases, patients developed recurrence of their hernia. These meshes were utilized in very large hernias and were of light-weight construction. The lightweight meshes were tested to their limit and failed. Interestingly, these meshes seem to have performed well in much less extreme scenarios.
Would you have your hernia repaired with mesh?
I would not have my hernia repaired unless mesh was used. There are actually only a few rare cases when mesh is not recommended. It is important, though, that a surgeon understand which mesh to choose for which hernia scenario. Look for a future blog post where I will give you questions you should ask your hernia surgeon.