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Hernia Mesh Complications

Patients may experience various hernia mesh complications after hernia repair surgery. The most common hernia mesh complications are persistent pain, infection, hernia recurrence, adhesion and bowel obstruction. Some patients have also reported instances of mesh failure and migration.

Last Modified: May 6, 2024
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What Are Common Hernia Mesh Complications?

Typically, hernia mesh complications fall under operative and post-operative categories, with operative issues arising from tissue damage during hernia mesh surgery and post-operative complications relating to hernia recurrence, pain from infection or mesh rejection.

Mesh migration and shrinkage may occur due to hernia mesh repair. Revision surgery may be necessary in severe cases.

Hernia Mesh Complications
  • Adhesion
  • Bleeding
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Bowel perforation
  • Chronic pain
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal perforation
  • Hernia recurrence
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Mesh erosion
  • Mesh failure
  • Mesh migration
  • Mesh shrinkage
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Recurrence
  • Rejection
  • Seroma
  • Swelling at the surgical site

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has looked at 45 studies conducted over 11 years on mesh used to repair hernias. They analyzed these studies to determine the likelihood of different complications that can occur following hernia repair surgery. Depending on the type of complication and the study involved, the risk ranged from 0% to as much as 52.5% for seroma, a lump or mass caused by a buildup of clear fluid in tissue.

What are the most frequently reported complications from hernia mesh? - Featuring Madris Tomes, CEO of Device Events
Madris Tomes, CEO of Device Events | 0:45 What are the most frequently reported complications from hernia mesh?
Wrongful death, bowel obstructions and organ damage are among the injuries named in hernia mesh lawsuits.
Replay Video
Madris Tomes, founder of adverse event reporting group Device Events, details the most frequently reported hernia mesh complications.

Can Hernia Mesh Cause Problems Years Later?

Hernia mesh complications may occur right after surgery or years later. Inguinal hernia recurrence is common, and about one in six people aged 65 or older may need a hernia repair within 10 years of the initial surgery, according to research at the University of Michigan.

“After a patient has had surgery to fix their hernia, it can be devastating for that hernia to come back, especially if it means more surgery,” said Dr. Ryan Howard, the lead researcher of the study.

Long-Term Hernia Mesh Complications:
  • Hernia recurrence
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Obstruction
  • Adhesion

Hernia mesh repair is a common procedure that has replaced recurrence as the most common complication. A 2022 research letter from the Michigan researchers published in JAMA, an international peer-reviewed general medical journal, reported no recurrence after three years but roughly 10% after eight years.

“Depending on the type of hernia surgery that was done, the complication will occur in the groin at four years on average — 50%, I should say — at four years,” renowned hernia surgeon Dr. Robert Bendavid told Drugwatch in a 2018 interview.

Many people who have experienced serious complications after hernia surgery — or even years later — are filing hernia mesh lawsuits against the manufacturers of their mesh.

Infection Complications of Hernia Mesh

Infections can occur after hernia repair. Minor hernia mesh infections can be treated with antibiotics, but chronic infections around the mesh and the repaired hernia are difficult to treat.

FDA Estimates: Incidents of Hernia Mesh Infection
  • Surgical site infection: 0% to 21%
  • Mesh infection: 0% to 1.4%
  • Abdominal organ space infection: 0.22% to 1.1%

Chronic infections can cause inflammation, fever and flu-like symptoms. To treat deep infections, doctors may perform hernia mesh removal surgery to remove the implanted mesh.

How To Tell If Your Hernia Mesh Failed

Surgical mesh tearing after implantation can cause recurring pain or hernia recurrence. It’s important to monitor your recovery and be aware of symptoms suggesting your hernia mesh may have failed.

Symptoms of Hernia Mesh Failure
  • High fever (101° F or higher)
  • Infection
  • Excessive pain, bruising or swelling
  • Increased redness or drainage from the incision
  • Stiffness in the abdomen
  • Nausea, vomiting or other flu-like symptoms
  • Difficulty urinating or passing gas and stool

People who experience these symptoms should inform their doctors that they had hernia mesh surgery. Hernia mesh complications can be hard to diagnose. Surgery may be needed to confirm if the mesh is damaged.

Hernia Recurrence After Hernia Mesh Surgery

Hernia recurrence is relatively common and may occur due to a flaw in the mesh’s manufacturing design. It can also happen if a patient is too active during hernia mesh surgery recovery, specifically in the first few weeks following surgery.

“After a patient has had surgery to fix their hernia, it can be devastating for that hernia to come back, especially if it means more surgery.”

A 2024 study in Langenbeck’s Archives of Surgery found that recurrence was twice as likely for open hernia repair as it was for laparoscopic surgery.

Further research from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Stony Brook University found no dramatic clinical differences between various types of materials used to secure hernia mesh.

“In a study comparing permanent tacks, absorbable tacks and synthetic glue, all fixation methods showed no differences in postoperative pain and recurrence,” according to the researchers.

Hernia Mesh Rejection

Mesh rejection can occur when the body tries to expel the implanted foreign material. It is more common among people who had their hernia repaired with synthetic mesh. This is caused by inflammation and scarring around the implant site.

Signs of rejection are discomfort after eating, coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercising.

Mesh Rejection Symptoms
  • Extreme swelling at the surgical site
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Redness
  • Tenderness or pain

Left untreated, mesh rejection can lead to severe complications such as bowel obstruction, fistula formation and chronic pain.

Hernia Mesh and Bowel Complications

Hernia mesh surgery can cause bowel complications, the most serious of which are bowel obstruction and perforations. If the mesh moves, it can obstruct the bowel, trapping loops of the intestine. Mesh may also cause inflammation and irritation of the bowels.

Bowel Obstruction
Bowel obstructions are serious and require immediate treatment. Recalled hernia mesh can cause obstruction and perforation. Symptoms include difficulty passing gas or stool, dehydration, constipation, vomiting, fever or nausea after surgery. Contact your surgeon immediately if you experience such symptoms.
Bowel Perforation
Bowel perforation is a rare complication of hernia surgery. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain and abdominal rigidity. It can happen if sutures fail and the mesh punctures into organs.
Hernia Mesh Adhesion
Adhesions to hernia mesh can develop a few days after surgery or over a long period and may lead to difficult repairs. Due to higher rates of adhesions, synthetic nondegradable mesh is not recommended for infected areas.
Hernia Mesh Migration
The mesh may migrate from the original hernia repair site. Mesh migration can cause complications like fistulas, adhesions and infections. Symptoms include pain, nausea, fever, swelling and weight loss.

Daniel Nigh, an attorney who has filed hernia mesh lawsuits after the devices failed, describes adhesions as a particularly complex complication.

“Hernia mesh itself can actually stick to various organs, one being the bowel, maybe one where it obstructs the bowel,” Nigh told Drugwatch. “And so now you have to have a revision surgery to unobstruct the bowel.”

Diagnosing and Treating Hernia Mesh Complications

Diagnosing hernia mesh complications can be challenging and may require X-rays or CT scans.

You should expect discomfort and tenderness after a hernia mesh procedure. However, prolonged pain, stabbing pain or swelling may indicate a complication.

Doctors can treat minor adhesions and fistulas with or without surgery. Nonsurgical treatments include antimicrobials, anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers. Severe complications may require follow-up surgery to repair or remove the mesh.

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