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What is the Truth about Hernia Mesh?

There is a steady stream of late-night infomercials talking about bad mesh.  It probably won’t surprise you to hear that most of those commercials are sponsored and written not by anyone with any medical training, but rather by attorneys trying to scare up clients to add to their class-action lawsuits. 

As you might imagine, the information that they are choosing to present in those commercials is anything but accurate. Here are some of the common things that we are asked about mesh as a result of those commercials and some basic information that we feel all of our patients should know.

At Surgical Associates of North Texas in McKinney, Texas, Dr. Scott deVilleneuve works to educate patients on the safest and most effective procedures for their surgical needs. He routinely performs surgical hernia repair and is ready to set the record straight on hernia mesh. 

Hernias and hernia mesh

A hernia is a tear or hole in what is called the fascia. This is the thick connective tissue that holds all of our Internal organs in place. Once this occurs, the only way to repair this is with surgery.

Depending on the location of the hernia (inguinal, umbilical, hiatal, incisional) there are different methods and approaches that can be used.  Regardless of the approach, the vast majority (over 90%) of these repairs will utilize some sort of mesh to help reinforce the repair.

Safety of hernia mesh

Around 2005, a couple of mesh manufacturers had reports that patients treated with their mesh were having complications. The FDA came down hard and made sure that companies with recalled products had injunctions filed against them to fix the problems, whether the issues were packaging errors or coatings on the mesh that were causing problems. 

These meshes were recalled, and new and better mesh options eventually replaced them. The safety of surgical mesh for hernia repair is a top priority for Dr. deVilleneuve, and he will thoroughly discuss your options with you.

Possible mesh-related complications

Just as there are different types of hernias, there are also different types of mesh, and which type is used determines the types of things that can occur as a result.  The two broad categories of mesh used for hernia surgery are biologics and synthetics, and each type has different properties and uses.

Biologic meshes are derived in some part from living tissue, usually bovine (cow), porcine (pig), or human cells.  These tend to be softer, more pliable, and less likely to become infected than the synthetic meshes that are available.

They are typically much more costly (both to produce and to use) and may not last as long, leading to the possibility of a recurrent hernia in the future.  The fact that these are derived from living tissue also means that it is much more likely for a patient to have an allergic reaction to this type of mesh.  

As a result, these types of mesh are often reserved for more complex cases (multiple recurrences, high possibility of infection) or for locations in the body where a synthetic mesh is contraindicated (in contact with a mucosal membrane such as bowel or esophagus).  

Synthetic meshes are just what they sound like - synthetic, usually made from some form of plastic like polypropylene or polytetrafluoroethylene. These are much more commonly used than the biologics, and if you’ve had a routine inguinal or umbilical hernia repair done in the last 10-15 years you most likely have this type of mesh incorporated into your repair.  

These are designed to provide a framework for your body’s own tissue to grow into, with this ingrowth of new tissue acting to provide more long term strength to the repair than if the tissue is just sewn together, reducing the chances of a recurrence happening.  

Our use of Mesh in Hernia surgery

Since beginning practice in 2004, Dr. deVilleneuve has done over 5,000 hernia repairs (inguinal, umbilical, incisional, epigastric) and has utilized mesh in the vast majority of those.  With this personal population of patients now spanning over 15 years of practice, he feels very confident when telling patients that the mesh he will be using is safe and something that you should feel good about having in your body. 

Are you anticipating needing a hernia repair? Contact our office at 972-525-0245 or book an appointment online today.

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