Like so many other medical terms, hernia is a word that gets used frequently without the specifics of the term’s definition being widely known. This, in turn, makes it difficult to understand and explain one of the methods used to repair a hernia; the hernia mesh surgical implant, and some of the problems that have been associated with it.
To best understand the hernia mesh, we first need to understand what a hernia actually is. The muscles in our bodies are held in place with what we collectively refer to as connective tissues. These connective tissues hold our muscles onto our bones as well as provide structural walls to contain the muscles and provide them with a sort of framework. On occasion, organs like intestines or fatty tissues can find places to break through your body’s muscles and connective tissues. When that occurs, the patient is said to have had a hernia.
Hernias are most commonly associated with the abdomen and its surrounding muscles and tissues. There are several types of common hernias and most occur anywhere from the groin up to the top of the abdominal wall. The FDA reports that more than 1 million hernia repairs are conducted every year in the United States; 80 percent of which are to repair inguinal hernias, or a hernia of the inner groin.
A hernia mesh is a surgical implant that is put in place to support and reinforce the tissue that gave way to the hernia and has now been damaged even further. Most meshes are made of either a synthetic material or animal tissue. Some materials are designed to dissolve in the patient’s body over time while others are harder and designed to be left in place permanently.
Like other mesh devices, hernia meshes can pose complications and cause adverse events both during surgery and after implantation. Some of these adverse events, such as bowel and other organ perforation, as well as migration of the mesh, organ obstruction, and infection have been so severe as to warrant a recall.
The FDA has published a list of recalled hernia mesh implants. Patients who have suffered adverse events as a result of their hernia mesh implants are advised to contact their doctors and surgeons to keep them apprised of any ongoing issues and to determine if they may have been implanted with a mesh that was later recalled.