The Ultimate Guide to Hernia Mesh Repairs
Hernia mesh repairs have recently entered the spotlight due to several recalls of mesh used in surgical procedures.
Many mesh devices were put out by manufacturers without proper testing for safety, durability, and effectiveness. Because of their negligence, many patients were injured – some fatally.
If you’ve come to this page because you were one of the thousands injured from a hernia repair surgery involving the implantation of mesh, know that there are hernia mesh class action lawsuits fighting for your rights. Getting involved in one of these lawsuits would mean the possibility of monetary reimbursement for your suffering.
In addition to pertinent background information like what a hernia is, and how hernia repair surgery is done, this comprehensive guide offers you detailed information on vital mesh-related topics like:
- What a hernia mesh is, and why it is used
- The distinct types of mesh surgeons may utilize
- Whether a hernia mesh can break
- What problems may arise from mesh used in hernia repair surgery
- What hernia mesh rejection is, and what the symptoms areWhether mesh can cause cancer
- What mesh-related Inguinodynia is
What’s a Hernia?
A hernia is what occurs when an organ is displaced from its anatomically correct spot inside the human body and pushes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall. This causes a noticeable bulge just below the skin.
Although there are numerous types of hernias, the most common forms include:
- Inguinal – Located in the groin
- Femoral – Located in the outer groin
- Incisional – Located at an incision site
- Umbilical – Located in the belly button (common in infants)
- Hiatal – Located in the upper portion of the stomach
The most obvious symptom you are suffering from a hernia is an obvious swelling or mass located just under the skin. Other symptoms include feeling heaviness in the abdomen, bowel issues, pain, discomfort when bending or lifting, and heartburn.
Hernias can be caused by heavy lifting, extreme bowel issues, persistent coughing or sneezing, accidents, or injuries to the abdomen. Things which put people at a higher risk for developing a hernia include being overweight, smoking, poor nutrition, or weak muscle tone.
How Hernia Surgery Is Done?
The most common type of surgery used to repair hernias is called laparoscopic surgery. This is often referred to as “laser” surgery.
Small incisions (typically three) are made which allow surgeons to access the area behind the abdominal wall with minimal injury. Surgical-grade hernia mesh is then used to assist in blocking the abdominal hole and keep organs in place. The mesh is sutured (stitched) in place, and allows for lower levels of reoccurrence than years prior.
What is Hernia Mesh?
Hernia mesh is an aid created out of implant-grade plastics – this means a high-grade plastic that does not have absorbable toxins which could harm the body. Mesh is shaped like a grid and is used to hold the herniated organs in place. It also allows for new tissue growth – in fact, the design promotes healthy new tissues to grow.
Are there several types of hernia mesh or just one?
There are several distinct types of hernia mesh. There are patches, which are designed to fit either above or below the weakened tissue. Plugs are designed to fit inside the hole, and sheets are manufactured to be custom fit to each individual person’s needs. Each type of mesh will also fall into one of the following categories:
- absorbable, which is made to slow break down and be absorbed into the body
- non-absorbable, which is considered a permanent implant
- coated, also referred to as a composite mesh, is coated with absorbable fatty acids
- synthetic, which is created from man-made materials of a high quality
- animal derived, which is manufactured from processed and disinfected animal tissue
Is it possible for hernia mesh to break?
Yes, it is possible for hernia mesh to break. When a high-quality form of mesh that has undergone rigorous testing is used, the chances of breakage are incredibly slim. Some hernia mesh that was recalled, however, has an increased risk of breakage.
Serious complications can arise if a mesh breaks once implanted, which is one of the reasons there are class action lawsuits in progress against companies who put faulty mesh devices onto the market.
The main complication is the perforation or puncture of nearby organs, muscles, and tissue. This can lead to internal bleeding, reoccurrence of the hernia originally repaired, or an additional weak area in the abdominal wall.
Depending on the organs situated near the hernia mesh repair site, this could also lead to irreversible damage that may sometimes prove fatal.
Can mesh from hernia repair surgery cause problems?
With all surgeries there is a risk of complications, and this is slightly elevated when placing a foreign object inside the body. Like discussed above, however, the chances of issue are slim when a quality product is used. Risks of problems arising are increased when a product currently on the recall list was utilized.
What are the symptoms of hernia mesh rejection?
Hernia mesh rejection occurs when the body does not accept the mesh, but instead rejects it as a foreign substance. This triggers an immune reaction, which involves the whole body.
The best way to describe the immune reaction triggered through foreign substance rejection is to think of a person with allergies to food, medicine, or environmental allergens. This causes an array of side effects, such as coughing, sneezing, angioedema, runny nose, scratchy throat, and in rare cases, anaphylactic shock. The same reason this happens is why complications arise from mesh rejection.
Why does the body reject some medical devices?
It is because your immune system is your body’s defense system.
Normally designed to help the body fight infections, it can sometimes identify non-harmful substances potentially threatening. This causes the immune system to go into overdrive and creates the inability to consume that item at future points because a memory of it being harmful has been stored within the immune system.
The immune response begins by sending out white blood cells, which can be understood as the body’s own personal little army. These white blood cells come rushing in to attack the invader in the hopes of killing it off (which would happen with common infections like the cold or flu) or getting it to leave the body.
Unfortunately, the invader in this case turns out to the mesh implant that is supposed to help repair your hernia and reduce the risk of future occurrence. It isn’t a true invader, but then neither is food or medicine. You never know what your immune system will react to, and the prevalence of rejection is higher in individuals who have had previous mesh implants.
This sounds contradictory, because most people believe that if you have had something once, you are not “allergic” to it. This is false. You must consume something at least once for the body to identify it as a foreign substance – or, alternatively, must be within the body for an extended period to provoke the immune response we have been discussing. The identification of a foreign substance must occur prior to the response to itself.
When the white blood cells begin attack the hernia mesh, it results in a series of dangerous complications, like:
- adhesions surrounding the mesh itself, on the incision site, or even on surrounding organs and tissues
- infections, which can be primarily centralized to the mesh repair site or (if left untreated) be body-wide infections like sepsis
- Mesh shrinkage, which leaves the weak area in the abdominal wall without support and increases the chance of re-herniation.
- Bowel obstruction, which can lead to an inability to properly void oneself; if left unattended, this then causes a dangerous build up of toxins in the body which can damage vital organs
How can you tell if you may be suffering from hernia mesh rejection?
Typically, it is obvious as symptoms are intense and progressive, although rarely patients and their doctors will not notice the issue until it has become advanced.
Primary symptoms of hernia mesh rejection include:
- Bruising or tenderness at the incision site which either (a) does not get noticeably better within a few weeks, or (b) gets progressively worse instead of improving
- Intense pain at the location of the mesh implant, which does not begin improving within a few days of surgery
- Fever, either with or without chills
- Swelling, which continues to get worse
- Poor healing of the incision site
- Poor wound healing throughout the body; for example, a small cut on your finger may take an extraordinary amount of time to properly heal
If primary symptoms of hernia mesh rejection are ignored, they will continue to progress. You may show signs of sepsis, organ failure, or nutritional deficiencies due to damage in the intestines. This covers a very wide spectrum of secondary symptoms, but a few of them include:
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Seizures present in individuals with no prior history
- Low body temperature
- Heart palpitations, or distress
- Rash apparent on any part of the skin
- Uncontrollable shaking
- A rapid drop in blood pressure, which can result in shock (where vital organs are left without oxygen)
- Inability to urinate
- Difficulty breathing, including wheezing, due to fluid buildup around the lungs
- And much, much more
One of the most debilitating side effects (apart from fatality, of course) is that extended fights between your immune system and a foreign substance can lead to the development of permanent, incurable autoimmune diseases. Without a cure, these diseases require lifelong medications to manage, and seriously affect a person’s quality of life.
There is an incredibly extensive list of potential autoimmune diseases. Some of the most common, however, include:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Hashimoto’s Disease
- Guillian-Barre Syndrome
- Grave’s Disease
- Pernicious Anemia
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (like Crohn’s)
Can mesh cause cancer?
No, hernia mesh can not cause cancer. Cancer occurs at a cellular level and is not produced by the introduction of a foreign substance into the body, nor by the immune system’s reaction to such.
Hernias themselves are also not associated with cancer, except for the rare indirect correlation. Indirect causes of hernia’s causing cancer are in the event of a hiatal hernia which goes unchecked. This causes excessive amounts of stomach acid to back flow into the esophagus, which in turn can cause esophagitis, which has a high correlation with throat cancer.
What is Mesh-Related Inguinodynia?
Mesh-related inguinodynia refers to the sensation of pain or generalized discomfort that continues for three months post-surgery. This pain is felt primarily in the inguinal canal, which is a ligament that exists in both genders.
The inguinal canal runs alongside the groin and features inguinal rings both internally and externally. Although this is the source of pain, discomfort can radiate outwards from these regions to be felt in surrounding areas of the abdominal wall. The medical term Inguinodynia translates to literally mean “chronic groin pain.”
According to an article published to the World Journal of Gastroenterology in April of 2011, chronic groin pain is incredibly prevalent in patients who have underwent hernia repair surgery utilizing hernia mesh.
The article also cites the problem as being vastly under-reported, possibly due to the fact patients are not properly educated about the warning signs of surgical complications. Many people assume pain is normal after undergoing hernia mesh repair surgery, and as such, do not report chronic pain to their surgeons but instead learn to “deal with it.”
There is no reason you should spend your life in chronic pain. Already high comparatively, there is an even more exaggerated occurrence of Inguinodynia in patients whose surgery utilized mesh devices which have been recalled.
If this sounds like you, make sure you speak with a lawyer familiar with the class action hernia mesh lawsuits. You may be eligible for monetary compensation that could assist in any lost wages, medical bills, or inconveniences associated with Inguinodynia or other complications of hernia mesh surgery.