A hernia occurs when the intestines or another abdominal organ gets pushed out of its normal position. Over the past few decades, surgeons have recommended a piece of mesh to repair these injuries. Also known as a hernia patch, hernia mesh supports the weakened muscle and tissue by helping hold this area in place.
One of two designs, synthetic mesh is made of polypropylene, a non-absorbable material meant to be a permanent fixture in the abdominal area. Animal tissue-based mesh, made from a cow or pig, provides temporary reinforcement. Over time, its absorbed by the body.
In more recent years, recalls and lawsuits against manufacturers have occurred. Consumers have questioned the safety of these products, particularly in relation to resulting pain, failure and hernia recurrence.
An estimated one-third of all patients receiving hernia mesh experience complications. Symptoms, from persistent pain to serious, life-threatening infection, may appear right after the procedure or years later. As such, many undergo revision surgery to remove the patch.
Based on data from the FDA, common dangers and complications associated with hernia mesh include the following.
After a patient undergoes surgery to insert hernia mesh, a bit of pain and soreness are expected. Yet for some people, this sensation never goes away or worsens with time.
Pain is considered a concerning complication if you notice the following symptoms three months or longer following your procedure:
- Unwavering pain
- Hypersensitivity during everyday tasks
- Discomfort not experienced prior
Organ and Bowel Perforation
This complication has a higher risk of occurring with synthetic polypropylene mesh. In an ideal scenario, the tissue surrounding the hernia mesh grows into and supports the edges.
Yet, the mesh has potential to puncture adjacent tissues and organs, including the abdominal wall, or result in bowel erosion.
This can lead to pain, nausea, vomiting and a sense of abdominal stiffness or rigidity. If this perforation is not addressed, long-term complications include the growth of scar tissue, adhesion, bowel obstructions, seromas, peritonitis and a potentially fatal infection.
Mesh migration starts with detachment, a complication more likely to occur following laparoscopic surgery. Mesh moving through the abdominal area may be symptomless. A patient could be unaware of the detachment until a more serious, life-threatening condition results. This may include:
- Sharp, chronic abdominal pain
- Unexplained bleeding
- Fistula, an abnormal connection between two body parts
- Severe infection
If migration goes unnoticed for a long period of time, abdominal surgery to remove the mesh and damaged tissue may be required.
This complication is related to the body attempting to remove a perceived foreign object. Risks can depend on the porousness of the mesh and material. To address this issue in the early stages, a doctor may prescribe a medication to help the body become accustomed to the patch, yet rejection may occur if the patient:
- Feels like they’re coming down with the flu
- Sees redness or swelling at the insertion site
- Experiences abdominal pain or tenderness
Patients undergoing this surgical procedure assume their hernia won’t return. Yet right afterwards or years down the road, complications like migration and rejection can lead to hernia recurrence.
Obstruction and Adhesion
If the mesh forms scar tissue, attaches to the intestines or migrates within the body, a patient may be dealing with a bowel obstruction. This condition requires immediate surgery to take out the mesh and any damaged portions of the intestines.
Bowel obstruction can result in cutting off and restricting blood flow to this area of the body. Patients may be dealing with this complication if they feel nauseous or are vomiting but cannot pass gas or stool.
Serious, Chronic Infections
Some patients may experience a minor infection following surgery, but antibiotics often take care of the condition. Deeper, less-treatable infections are a potential complication that can emerge immediately or years after hernia mesh surgery.
If you have flu-like symptoms and inflammation that won’t go away, your body could be fighting off an infection and the patch may need to be removed.
Patients trust doctors to recommend safe medical solutions. When products are recalled due to defective design or serious complications, Trantolo & Trantolo holds the responsible parties accountable. If you or a loved one have been affected by the potential dangers of a hernia patch, contact our product liability attorneys today.