According to the FDA, 90 percent of the more than 1 million annual surgeries to correct a hernia utilize a mesh patch. For nearly one-third of all patients, varying complications occur, from localized pain to life-threatening bowel perforations, requiring further repair or outright mesh removal.
For patients given hernia mesh, Journal of the American Medical Association studies have shown a far lower rate of recurrence. But, when researchers evaluate sutures and mesh side-by-side, mesh tends to have far more complications, resulting from the body rejecting the patch. How do you know your body is having a reaction after surgery? Look for the following signs.
When the body is not accepting the patch, it generates an immune response – even though the mesh is said to be made out of biologically compatible materials. When this occurs, you may have:
- Swelling at or around the surgical site
- Flu-like symptoms
- Difficulty urinating or passing gas and stool
- A high fever
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stiffness in the abdomen
Immediately post-surgery, some inflammation is common. The polypropylene used intentionally causes inflammation, which causes tissue growth around the mesh for a stronger, more secure bond. With time, the inflammation should go away. If it doesn’t and you experience abdominal pain that eventually makes everyday activities unbearable, this symptom could indicate your body is fighting off an infection.
Should you notice heat at the incision site, you could also be dealing with an infection, as the body may be fighting off bacteria. When this is not addressed in a timely manner, organized colonies known as biofilms may form, quickly becoming antibiotic resistant. Because a drug treatment plan may make your symptoms worse, your doctor may recommend removing the mesh.
Even if biofilms don’t form, the infection may create a seroma (fluid buildup) at the incision site. Not only does it lead to more pain and oozing pus, but its presence prevents the hernia from completely healing.
Patients whose bodies are rejecting the hernia mesh may develop dental problems, which stem from chronic infection. Symptoms include:
- Weakened teeth that may start to fall out
- Tooth infections
- Unexplained chips
In certain instances, the mesh may adhere to the intestines, creating scar-like tissue that sticks together. Although absorbable coatings are designed to prevent this occurrence, their effects eventually go away after seven to 30 days. Because this protective barrier is soon ingested, a patient’s risk of adhesion increases. When this happens, a patient may start to develop chronic pain and could eventually experience bowel obstruction.
Bowel or Intestinal Blockage
As a progression of adhesion, mesh may partially or fully block the intestines, preventing patients from passing stools or gas. Nausea and vomiting indicate mesh may be blocking your bowels and, should it go unaddressed, it cuts off blood flow and may cause part of the intestinal tissue to die. If you suspect a blockage of some kind, report it to your doctor right away. Revision surgery, in which the patch and possibly part of your intestines are removed, may be needed.
What if the mesh doesn’t attach correctly? Then, migration may occur when the mesh detaches and starts to move through the abdomen. Migration may further indicate the doctor didn’t use enough sutures or that the patch was too small for the opening.
If the migrating mesh goes unchecked, it may eventually come in contact with your intestines, gallbladder or other internal organs. As with adhesion, the mesh starts growing into the organ, potentially creating fistulas, abscesses or bowel obstruction.
Mesh not only grows into the organ – it also has potential to puncture or erode the tissues, especially those of the abdominal wall. When this happens to your intestines or bowels, fecal matter and bacteria can enter the abdominal cavity, leading to further complications, including sepsis. Because of this, perforations are a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
While most cases of rejection happen not long after surgery, a study published in a 2016 issue of JAMA found that complications actually increase within five years after the procedure.
Did you receive a hernia mesh patch, only to contend with the painful process of rejection, removal or revision surgery? To hold doctors and medical device manufacturers accountable, bring your claim to Trantolo & Trantolo’s attorneys today.