Plastic products continue to be the most prevalent means of repairing a hernia through the use of mesh.  Nearly a million hernias every year in this country are fixed by using plastic meshes and tens of thousands of patients suffer from side effects from this medical device. While side effects are freely discussed, it is hard to fully understand the debilitating nature of these impacts without hearing the actual story of a patient who suffers daily from the consequences of hernia mesh surgery.

Texas woman details life-changing side effects

A Texas woman has come forward to detail the life-changing side effects that she had suffered about hernia mesh surgery.  These have completely stripped her of her quality of life after having to undergo multiple surgeries and dozens of hospital stays.Carmen Pacheco had surgery in 2013 to fix a pelvic organ prolapse along with a hernia. Pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition that affects a sizable proportion of women worldwide. One in five women suffer from this condition and it happens when the muscles in the pelvis fail.  Nothing about this condition is supposed to be life-threatening. Women are routinely told that the means to repair this condition are simple and all that is necessary is a routine surgery.

For millions of women such as Pacheco, this surgery has turned out to be anything but routine. Many have suffered consequences that have altered their life and put them in constant pain. The manufacturers who produced and marketed this device are now facing a multitude of mesh lawsuits.

A strangulated hernia

The major problem is the mesh that is used to fix the hernia, which Pacheco received during her surgery. It is made out of plastic, and like any synthetic material, it runs the risk of failing or shifting out of place and causing damage to the surrounding organs. In Pacheco’s case, the mesh did nothing to help her condition. Instead, it led to a strangulated hernia a year after her original surgery.  A strangulated hernia is when a hernia cuts of the blood supply to the intestines and abdomen. This is a life-threatening condition that must be fixed with another surgery.

Pacheco had surgery to repair the strangulated hernia, but that was not the end of her medical problems.  Another complication of hernia mesh surgery is that the patient can develop an infection. The mesh is marketed as an inert product, meaning that it is not biologically alive and matter cannot grow on it. However, with respect to hernia meshes, that has not always been the case and patients have developed infections. In addition, the plastic hernia mesh can degrade over time. This can either lead to an infection or the failure of the mesh. Many times, this requires that the patient has a second surgery to either repair the hernia or to insert a new mesh.

Massive hernia mesh infection

Pacheco developed a massive infection after her second surgery which further weakened her body. She had to have a third surgery to repair the damage, Now, Pacheco has a large hernia that continues to plague her on a daily basis. The hernia that necessitated the original surgery was small, but now her current hernia is larger by many multiples. She estimates that she has been in and out of the hospital at least 50 times since her initial surgery. Before the surgery, Pacheco weighed 225 pounds. Now, she weighs 125 pounds and has difficulty eating because she throws up bile on a daily basis.  Pacheco now faces a mountain of medical bills and a ruined life as a consequence of hernia mesh side effects.

Mesh erosion

Pacheco is far from the only person to have experienced life-altering side effects after having hernia mesh surgery. While meshes do not cause the same side effects in every patient that Pacheco has suffered, there are still a large number of people whose lives have been harmed by the consequences of the surgery. The side effects that Pacheco has experienced are common harms that result from the use of a defective product.  One of the major problems is when the mesh erodes into other parts of the body.  Jodie Callahan suffered from years of pain when her hernia mesh eroded into various parts of her body. She needed multiple surgeries to remove the hernia mesh from her body since it was continuing to cause her pain. Many patients who experience these complications will need multiple surgeries and will have large medical bills that can break them financially.  These surgeries can be as serious as having to remove internal organs that have been damaged by the mesh.

There have been tens of thousands of reports of harm from hernia meshes that have been filed with the FDA.  200 of these reports have involved death. These reports have been particularly severe in cases where mesh has been inserted vaginally to repair pelvic organ prolapse. This involved the insertion of pelvic mesh, and the consequences for thousands of women have been severe. Recently, after years of adverse event reports and public hearings, the FDA ordered the remaining manufacturers of pelvic mesh to stop selling the product. The makers of these products have already been facing tens of thousands of lawsuits. Some have settled the cases, while other product manufacturers have fought the lawsuits all the way through trial.

synthetic hernia mesh

Even though pelvic mesh is now a thing of the past thanks to a recent FDA order, no such edict has been issued regarding synthetic hernia mesh. This continues to be used in millions of surgeries around the globe each year and the number is growing as more people have their hernias repaired and the population in the U.S. ages.  Complications from hernia meshes are no less devastating than those that result from pelvic mesh, yet these products continue to be sold and used in large numbers.  The incidents of side effects have grown in recent years as the annual sales of these products have increased. In addition, as there has been more publicity regarding the complications of meshes, more people have reported their complications to the FDA.  Analysis of the adverse event reports have shown over 5,000 infections and bowel obstructions since 2007. While this is not a large proportion of the number of surgeries, these are severe complications.

The ultimate hope is that patients like Pacheco will no longer have to experience side effects from hernia surgeries. Unfortunately, those who have already had the surgery have experienced health effects that are not possible to fix, but future surgeries can rely on biological or animal products that will not have the same harmful complications that synthetic plastic meshes cause. While it is too late to help patients like Pacheco, these products have shown encouraging results from their usage. The only issue that is preventing more widespread usage is the cost, but this is starting to come down as advances are made.  While hernia meshes reduce the risk of having to undergo a subsequent procedure, they have also introduced unacceptable risks that can impact a patient for the rest of their life.

Anyone who has had surgery using hernia mesh and has experienced side effects should make sure that they stay informed of any developments about these meshes. They can learn about problems that others have experienced by joining groups on social media that discuss these problems. Most important, they should retain a lawyer to start the process of filing a claim for financial compensation. While there is not one large class action, there are tens of thousands of lawsuits that have been filed as multi-district litigation. Many of these lawsuits have already been settled, but new ones go to trial frequently. There are multi-district litigations pending against large manufacturers such as Bard, Ethicon and Atrium. If the plaintiffs are successful in the bellwether cases that are soon to be tried, it could result in large settlements for victims.