Hernia mesh has changed the way the surgical procedure is conducted. While, in the past, hernias had been complicated procedures that involved a hospital stay, now they can be done without an overnight stay in the hospital due to the manner in which the mesh can cover the hole that is causing the hernia. However, this progress has come at a cost through the complications that these meshes have caused the patients that have had this material implanted into their bodies. The composition of this mesh has precipitated all sorts of issues from allergic reactions to life-threatening infections. In part, these have resulted from the way that these hernia meshes have been manufactured. The complications have led to a large number of product liability lawsuits being filed against the manufacturers of these products.
What is Hernia Mesh?
A hernia mesh is a sheet that is placed over the affected area and sewn into the muscles. When a patient has a hernia, it means that an organ or other fatty tissue has squeezed through a hole in the muscle. This can occur at various points of a patient’s midsection. The result of the hernia is that the patient often has a bulge where the organ has come through and a hole from which it protrudes. The point of the hernia is to fix the hole so that the organ or the fatty tissue can no longer protrude. In the past, that hole was sewn shut. This was a complicated procedure that was a major surgery and required an incision.
In the 1980s, however, surgeons began to use a hernia mesh in order to fix the problem. This mesh was placed over the affected area and sewn in to cover the problem. Eventually, the area around the mesh would strengthen, but the mesh would obscure the protrusion until it did so.
A hernia that results in implantation of mesh results is a foreign substance being introduced to the body. Oftentimes, this can cause side effects that can impact a patient long after the actual procedure. In order to understand why some of these meshes can cause complications for patients, it is important the understand the composition and features of each of these meshes.
Marlex mesh is one of the oldest types of hernia meshes, having been used in surgery going back to the 1950s. Marlex is a fiber that is made out of polyethylene. This material is part of the family of thermoplastic polymers. In other words, the surgery resulted in the insertion of plastic into a patient’s body. Marlex is the same type of plastic material that is used in the manufacture of Hula Hoops. Marlex was the predominant product in the hernia mesh market for over 30 years until advances were made in the technology used in hernia meshes. Marlex is still used for the repair of inguinal hernias.
This material is found in the hernia mesh that is called Physiomesh. Polypropylene is also the type of surgical mesh that the vast majority of hernia mesh is composed of. Physiomesh was manufactured by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson and was voluntarily removed from the Market by J&J because of widespread victim complications as well as studies indicating that the mesh was defective. Also, the vast majority of the hernia mesh manufactured by Bard/ Davol and Atrium is composed of polyproplene. Polypropylene is also made with material that is in the plastics family. This material has both physical and chemical properties and is considered to be a low-density plastic. Makers of polypropylene hernia mesh claim that this material is inert when it is used as hernia mesh. However, some complications have resulted from the fact that biofilms can actually grow on the surface of these meshes causing infection.
Hernia meshes that are made out of polyester are braided sheets that do not have some of the same chemical properties as polypropylene-based meshes. Although polyester meshes shrink less than other types of meshes, the main danger of the polyester mesh is degradation. When a hernia mesh degrades, it can cause infection. Alternatively, failure of the mesh can result in the need for an additional surgery to fix the hernia problem. While a polyester mesh would ordinarily sound safer than a plastic mesh, studies have shown no difference in post-operative pain when a polyester mesh is used. Mesh manufactured by Covidien/ Medtronic is made of Polyester mesh.
Meshes that introduce less chemical substances into the body may be considered safer than synthetic meshes. The latest generation of hernia meshes feature biological products as the basis for the composition of the mesh. These types of meshes include bovine, pig and human material. They act as a biological scaffold while the patient’s own muscles regenerate around the mesh. Eventually, the mesh will disintegrate, and patient will be left with their own healed muscles. This type of mesh is the safest mesh available in terms of being able to prevent post-surgical complications. The obstacle to more widespread adoption of these meshes are the high cost. The hope is that the cost can come down to the point where these products are used in a majority of the future hernia operations.
The fact that meshes with foreign materials are permanently implanted into the body introduces a heightened risk for complications resulting from a hernia surgery. The rate of complication in a hernia surgery can range up to 25% according to a study published by the NIH. Some of the complications that can result from hernia meshes include infection and allergic reactions. These will cause pain at the surgical site for months after the procedures. In a worst-case scenario, the patient must have a follow-up procedure to have the mesh removed. A new mesh must either then be inserted or the hernia otherwise fixed. These complications are both painful and expensive. Even minor complications have the possibility to degrade a patient’s quality of life for a long time after the surgery.
If you have had a surgery that has resulted in the implantation of hernia mesh and have experienced complications after the surgery, it is imperative that you contact a lawyer immediately. A hernia mesh attorney will advise you of the legal options that you have to file a hernia mesh lawsuit, including your chances of obtaining a recovery for the defective hernia mesh that has caused your side effects after your procedure.