Do I Need Hernia Mesh? Are There Any Alternatives?
A hernia is basically a small soft bulge in your abdomen, groin, or chest. An organ begins to push through a weakened area of the soft tissue or muscle that’s supposed to hold it in place. If you suffer from a hernia, you may experience significant pain and find that you have difficulty going about your day-to-day tasks.
Hernias aren’t usually life-threatening. However, they tend to be debilitating, painful, and just downright annoying. When you suffer from a hernia, you might be unable to work, participate in sports, or play with your kids or grandkids.
Sadly, hernias don’t typically resolve themselves or go away on their own. Surgical intervention is often necessary. That’s why surgeons perform more than one million hernia repair surgeries every year across the nation.
Do I Need Hernia Mesh If I Get Hernia Repair Surgery?
Not necessarily. Hernia mesh is used in repair surgeries to reinforce and support the abdominal wall as you recover. This can be really beneficial, especially because hernias have a tendency to recur. By strengthening the abdominal muscles and underlying soft tissue, a hernia, once repaired, is less likely to pop through again. So, many surgeons like to use surgical mesh to increase the odds of a successful procedure and reduce the risk of revision surgery.
However, hernia mesh has become quite controversial over the past few years. Many devices have failed and caused more harm than good. Hernia mesh devices have been known to:
- Migrate in the body, away from the site of surgery
- Adhere to internal organs or soft tissue
- Dissolve or erode over time
- Puncture internal organs
- Cause infection, and
- Fail, requiring patients to undergo a revision procedure.
These are just a few of the complications and injuries associated with hernia mesh devices. The complications vary from mesh to mesh, depending on how it was manufactured and by which company.
Hernia Mesh Might Not Be Worth the Pain
Hernia mesh patches have been widely used in hernia repair surgeries for a long time now. The original devices date back to the 1960s, and surgeons have relied heavily on them in the decades since. However, studies show that hernia mesh might not be worth the potential risks and suffering.
One study revealed that as many as one-quarter of all hernia repair patients experience chronic pain within two years of their surgery. So, one out of every four patients receiving a hernia mesh implant will struggle with chronic pain.
At the same time, one out of every five people to receive a mesh device will be forced to go back in for a second surgery to repair or replace their defective device. That’s because as many as 15 percent of hernia mesh patches can fail, resulting in a hernia recurrence.
Are There Any Alternatives to Hernia Mesh?
Yes. In fact, there are five ways to repair a hernia without the use of surgical mesh. These include:
- McVay/Cooper’s Ligament, and
These are known as “pure tissue repair” techniques. After repairing the hernia, surgeons focus on strengthening the muscle and tissue that allowed the hernia to occur, in the first place, by literally stitching the tissue back together.
Are these alternatives better than using hernia mesh? It’s unclear. Hernia mesh significantly reduces the length of the surgical procedure and generally allows patients to recover much faster. However, at the same time, adverse health events associated with defective hernia mesh devices have affected the lives of tens of thousands of hernia repair patients.
There’s also evidence to suggest that one non-mesh repair, in particular, is superior. A 2016 study compared hernia mesh patients who received hernia mesh with those who had their hernia repaired using the Shouldice technique. The rate of recurrence for hernia mesh patients was about 5 percent, while the rate of recurrence for Shouldice patients was about 1.15 percent.
However, non-mesh procedures can be complicated. Experts say it can take doctors a long time – as many as 200 surgeries – to perfect the method. At the same time, many hospitals and medical schools have stopped teaching these non-mesh techniques. That might be why the Shouldice technique is used in less than two percent of all hernia repair procedures.
What Should I Do If I Need Hernia Surgery?
Talk to your doctor. Ask which hernia mesh patch they suggest, and why. Inquire about established risks and potential side effects. If you’re concerned about hernia mesh failing, ask your doctor about non-mesh techniques. If your hernia is relatively minor, you might be a good candidate for a pure tissue repair.
If you do receive a hernia mesh implant during surgery, be vigilant in documenting any side effects or complications. Make note of any pain or unusual health issues you experience in the days, weeks, and months after your repair.
Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you think something is wrong. If your hernia mesh is defective or fails, or your doctor recommends a revision surgery, you may have the grounds to file a hernia mesh injury lawsuit. An experienced hernia mesh injury lawyer can help you fully understand your rights and options if that’s the case.