General Surgery News is an independent monthly newspaper for the General Surgeon. General Surgery News weighed in on the obligations of hernia mesh surgeons to communicate effectively with patients needing hernia repair. Read the article entitled, “Talking to Patients About Mesh…In Age of Social Media and Lawsuits, Surgeons Offer Advice on How to Communicate With Concerned Patients” here.

According to B. Todd Heniford, MD is the chief of gastrointestinal and minimally invasive surgery at Carolinas Medical Center, in Charlotte, N.C. At the American College of Surgeons 2018 Clinical Congress, he stated: “Surgeons need to take time to listen to patient concerns and talk to them about the state of the evidence for hernia mesh.” Id. It is a sad that a well-respected surgeon needs to implore fellow surgeons to take time to listen and talk to patients!

Experienced hernia mesh lawyers, who are in the trenches, helping hernia mesh victims are aware that the vast majority of surgical mesh surgeons do not take the time to listen to hernia mesh patients. Mesh surgeons typically dictate that they will be using surgical mesh and that is the end of the conversation. Typically, the mesh surgeon does not inform the patient which type of mesh they will be using in the surgery and why they are using that mesh.

Mesh surgeons and physicians do not adequately explain the following to their patients:

  • Potential complications that could occur as a result of using mesh composed of polypropylene, polyester or other synthetic material.
  • Is polypropylene incompatible with the human body?
  • The benefits, detriments, feasibility and cost of using non-mesh surgical procedures
  • What mesh they will be utilizing in the surgery?
  • Who manufactures the hernia mesh?
  • Whether this mesh is safer then other mesh widely utilized by surgeons?
  • The number of lawsuits related to the mesh and whether the mesh is subject to an inordinate amount of hernia mesh lawsuits.
  • The benefits and detriments of using biological mesh or absorbable mesh

I have interviewed hundreds of hernia mesh victims. Nearly every single victim stated that the surgeon did not inform him or her what type of hernia mesh they would be using and who was the manufacturer. Victims have been led to believe by their surgeon there is only one type of mesh.  Often, no options are provided to the patient by the surgeon. The title of this hernia mesh surgery article is problematic. The article is about how surgeons communicate with concerned patients. Surgeons need to communicate the risks and terrible complications caused by hernia mesh to ALL patients, not just concerned patients.

The article indicates that surgeons, “have got to have focused discussions with patients about what meshes we may use, the alternatives in the operating room, and about what real science demonstrates for recurrence and chronic discomfort.” Id. This is another tone-deaf statement which ignores the realities and side effects that hernia mesh victims face. Hernia mesh victims face more than “chronic discomfort” and hernia recurrence.

Hernia mesh victims’ face the following mesh complications:

  • Bowel obstruction
  • Organ adhesion
  • Severe pain
  • Infection
  • Bowel perforation
  • Organ perforation
  • Death

According to the article: “A meta-analysis published in May 2018 in Surgery examined all randomized controlled trials related to chronic pain reported at a minimum of six months after mesh and nonmesh repair in adult patients with primary inguinal hernia (163[5]:1151-1159). Among 23 randomized controlled trials with 5,444 patients, 21 studies reported crude chronic pain rates. When considering moderate and severe pain, the prevalence of pain after nonmesh and mesh repairs were similar: median 3.5% (0%-16.2%) versus median 2.9% (0%-27.6%), respectively. The median follow-up was 1.4 years (range, 0.5-10 years). Both the meta-analysis and network meta-analysis indicated no difference in chronic pain rates when comparing nonmesh repairs with open and laparoscopic mesh repairs. Mesh may be used without fear of causing a greater rate of chronic pain, the authors wrote.” Id.

“In November, following front-page stories in the British press and discussion in the U.K. Parliament, the British Hernia Society issued a mesh safety leaflet designed to help surgeons in their discussions with patients. It is available” Id.  www.britishherniasociety.org/ wp-content/ uploads/ 2018/ 11/ BHS-mesh-safety-leaflet-for-patients-2018.pdf.