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Hernia Mesh

Hernia mesh is a flexible material used in most U.S. hernia repair surgeries. It provides strength and structure to damaged tissue, promoting faster healing. It is made from synthetic or biological materials and can be used as patches or plugs to allow for new tissue growth.

Last Modified: May 6, 2024
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What Is Hernia Mesh?

Hernia mesh is a flexible medical device that supports damaged tissue around a hernia. It is woven or perforated, giving it a mesh-like appearance. Hernia mesh is attached by surgeons during a surgical hernia repair to help the tissue heal. The tissue grows over the mesh as you heal, creating a hernia repair.

Hernia mesh can be made from several different materials, but polypropylene mesh is the most common.

“Polypropylene, which is the most commonly used, actually, of all of them, probably 90% to 95%,” late hernia surgeon Dr. Robert Bendavid told Drugwatch. “There is also polyester, which is mostly used in Europe — and the third one is really Gore-Tex, or the so-called EPTFE, which is probably the least reactive in terms of an inflammation.”

Key Hernia Mesh Facts
  • Doctors use hernia mesh in 90% of hernia surgeries annually in the U.S.
  • About 20 million hernia repair surgeries occur annually worldwide; approximately 1.6 million are in the U.S.
  • The composition, shape and size of hernia mesh varies.

The abdominal wall, consisting of layers of fascia and muscles, protects internal organs and keeps them in place. Fatty tissues or organs can push through weak spots in the wall, causing tears.

These tears are hernias, and most require surgery to repair. Hernia mesh has many benefits, but patients may experience complications, sometimes requiring hernia mesh removal surgery.

The late Dr. Robert Bendavid explains the three types of hernia mesh.

Why Is Hernia Repair With Mesh Common?

Surgeons prefer using hernia mesh for repair over sutures alone, as it leads to better results, shorter recovery times, less pain and reduced chances of recurrence.

Research, like one 2020 meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, supports this choice. According to the researchers, “The use of mesh in elective repair of umbilical hernia reduced the risk of recurrence compared with suture closure without altering the risk of chronic pain.”

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, mesh use in surgeries consistently reduces hernia recurrences. Columbia University Medical Center also reports that mesh reduces recurrence rates, specifically in groin hernia repair, by up to 50% compared to sutures.

“The use of mesh in elective repair of umbilical hernia reduced the risk of recurrence compared with suture closure without altering the risk of chronic pain.”

Surgeons choose the mesh type based on hernia type, severity, patient’s age, health and risk of recurrence. Mesh selection also depends on the hernia location. Proper mesh placement is crucial for successful repairs.

Hernia Mesh Complications: Hernia Recurrence & Other Risks

The FDA says hernia mesh is a permanent implant and is expected to last a lifetime. Despite this, many patients have reported hernia mesh complications that require revision surgery.

Hernia surgery is the only treatment that can permanently repair a hernia. Recurrence and other complications may result from surgical errors or patient-related circumstances, such as post-op activity and age, not necessarily because of hernia mesh.

A 2024 study on hernia repair complications published in Cureus examined 274 patients. Most were male, and 17.2% experienced complications, including pain and infection.

Breakdown of Most Common Complications, 2024 Study
  • Wound infection: 5.8%
  • Seroma formation: 2.9%
  • Mesh infection: 1.8%

Other side effects include adhesion, bowel perforation or obstruction, migration, shrinkage and pain.

Being overweight or having diabetes can increase your chances of developing complications, according to the study. Researchers found obese individuals are 2.7 times more likely to experience complications, while people with diabetes are 2.8 times more likely to experience them. However, factors such as gender and smoking do not seem to have a significant impact on the risk of complications.

Hernia Mesh Recalls

Manufacturers’ hernia mesh recalls have affected more than 200,000 units between 2005 and 2024. Ethicon also ordered a “market withdrawal,” taking the mesh off the market without a recall.

Recalls and Withdrawals
  • 2021
    Covidien recalls 129 units of Parietex hydrophilic anatomical mesh.
  • 2016
    Ethicon removes Physiomesh Composite Mesh from the market.
  • 2013
    Atrium Medical recalls 145,000 C-QUR units.
  • 2007
    Bard Davol recalls 16,000 Composix Kugel mesh units.
  • 2005
    Ethicon recalls 18,000 Proceed mesh units.
  • 2005 and 2006
    Bard Davol recalls 31,000 Composix Kugel mesh units.
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The FDA has blamed recalled hernia mesh for cases of bowel obstruction and perforation. Many of these recalled products are no longer on the market, but some are still available.

Hernia Mesh Litigation

Thousands of people have filed hernia mesh lawsuits after suffering serious complications. A federal panel combined lawsuits naming three different hernia mesh manufacturers into separate multidistrict litigations — or MDLs.

Pending Hernia Mesh Lawsuits in MDLs
  • Atrium C-Qur: 1,438 cases
  • Bard Davol polypropylene: 23,641 cases
  • Ethicon Physiomesh: 39 cases
  • Covidien ProGrip and Symbotex: 1,322 cases

“The people that are eligible for filing a hernia mesh claim would be folks who have had complications after a hernia mesh surgery,” David Nigh, a hernia mesh lawyer, told Drugwatch. “So for example, if you’re scheduled for a revision surgery or you’ve had a revision of your hernia mesh, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.”

Alternatives to Hernia Mesh

Some surgeries and medications can be used as hernia mesh alternatives. Doctors may recommend waiting and watching for some hernias. Tension or tension-free repair methods using sutures can also be used. These non-mesh repairs typically take less surgical time but may require longer recovery times.

The late Dr. Robert Bendavid describes the recurrence and other disadvantages of hernia mesh.

Physicians will assess each hernia individually and recommend the best treatment, which may include watchful waiting, medication, an alternative surgery or using hernia mesh.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.