Is Surgical Mesh Safe?

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

What Is a Hernia?

A hernia usually occurs when either your intestines or other internal organs push through the walls of muscle and body tissue that contain them. Hernias are a very common health issue, and over one million hernia repair procedures are performed in the United States every year. Repairing hernias often involves the use of a loosely woven sheet called surgical mesh to hold the site of the hernia together. Mesh can be either synthetic or derived from pig or cow tissue.

Surgical mesh – How Safe Is It?

There have been numerous instances in which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted the sale of surgical mesh that was found to not meet certain health safety and risk factors.

Generally speaking, the main benefit of using surgical mesh for hernia repair is to help improve the strength of a wide area around the hernia itself to reduce the chances that a hernia reoccurs at that site. When used correctly and placed the way it should be, a surgical mesh can help lower the risks of hernia recurrence, with minimal risk of complications. Synthetic mesh typically has the lowest rates of hernia recurrence, followed by surgeries or stitches that use biological mesh, followed by surgeries or stitches that are performed without the use of mesh.

Issues Caused by Problematic Mesh

Some of the most common issues and side effects of using hazardous mesh for hernia repair procedures include the following:

  • Pain
  • Infections
  • Recurrence of a hernia at the site in question
  • Adhesion of body tissues at the site of the procedure
  • Obstructions of either the large or the small intestines
  • Fistulas (unnatural connections) forming between organs, vessels, or the intestines
  • Fluid build-up (seromas) at the site of the procedure

For patients, it is important to keep in mind that man-made products, however natural they may be, pose certain risks when used within the body. The benefits often outweigh the risks, and the use of surgical mesh for the repair of hernias is a tried-and-tested practice that has been around for over five decades. However, the inguinal hernia misdiagnosis has led not only to numerous lawsuits but also to high costs, delays in post-operative rehab, and other complications.

Deciding on Mesh

Patients who are predisposed to infection can use certain types of mesh that offer higher degrees of resistance to infection, so speak to your doctor about which type to use. Also, discuss with your doctor whether or not your specific case actually requires an operation right away.

All hernias, regardless of their type, can potentially trap internal body contents, such as the intestine, so surgical repair is usually the best option to adopt. New approaches to hernia care, such as watchful waiting of hernias that are considered to be not particularly dangerous, have been debunked as unsafe, as per the National Institutes of Health (NIH). With this in mind, the use of mesh for hernia procedures is considered to be the standard of care, and it is a practice that is supported by thorough clinical trials and post-op studies.

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