Hernia Mesh FAQ

Although the FDA considers it safe for repairing hernias, hernia mesh is not without possible complications. With potentially 10% to 20% of surgeries needing revision and 31% of surgery patients experiencing complications, it’s important to discuss risks and alternatives with your doctor.

Last Modified: October 18, 2023
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Is the Mesh Used for Hernia Repair Safe?

While the FDA considers hernia mesh safe, there is the possibility of complications. Hernias left undetected may require surgery to repair, and it’s normal to question the risks and how this surgery can impact your life.

Key Safety Facts
  • It’s possible for the body to reject or react to biologic and synthetic mesh materials.
  • One surgical practice noted that 23% of hernia-related surgery patients return for mesh removal because of reactions to the mesh.
  • Pure tissue repair is gaining interest as an alternative to hernia mesh surgery.

There are cases where people experience negative reactions to mesh materials that mesh manufacturers use in their products. In these situations, mesh removal can help heal a surgical mesh infection, although treatment may also include negative pressure wound therapy.

Polypropylene hernia mesh can stick to internal organs and puncture them. One study found a 91% chance of mesh migration, while other patients experience mesh erosion into the skin requiring additional surgery and care.

How Long Does Hernia Mesh Surgery Take?

The time it takes to repair a hernia varies from 30 minutes to two hours. The type of hernia mesh surgery and technique makes a difference, with laparoscopic or robotic hernia surgery an efficient option for both basic and complex procedures.

For many people, the operation usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete, and patients are usually able to go home on the same day. Those with medical problems or unique living situations may stay in the hospital overnight.

How Long Is the Recovery Period After Hernia Mesh Surgery?

The postoperative recovery for patients at the facility is usually two hours, but this depends on the complexity of the surgery and other medical conditions. Complete healing from the surgery takes several weeks.

Key Recovery Facts
  • An adult should stay with the patient for the first 24 hours after surgery in case of any problems.
  • Pain, tightness and minor swelling are likely near the site of the mesh but should gradually fade over a few days.
  • Patients can typically expect a full recovery between four to six weeks after surgery.

While in recovery, your doctor will have you avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting. Complications could set back recovery time, prolong pain and require additional rest beyond the typical six weeks.

What Activities Should I Avoid After Hernia Mesh Surgery?

To encourage healing, you should refrain from any strenuous activity after the surgery. Your doctor will give you a complete list of activities to avoid, but keep in mind that these restrictions are temporary.

Activities to Avoid Post-Surgery
  • Bathing: Avoid showering for 24 to 48 hours after the surgery, and refrain from taking a bath for at least two weeks.
  • Diet: You can resume your normal diet as soon as you feel able, as anesthesia can sometimes cause nausea.
  • Driving: Avoid driving under the effects of anesthesia, while on painkillers and for several days after the surgery. Some doctors recommend waiting one to two weeks.
  • Lifting: Avoid lifting anything for the first week and nothing more than 20 pounds the second week.
  • Sex: Avoid sex until four weeks after your surgery.
  • Sports: Avoid any strenuous sporting activities with lifting and muscle strain for six to eight weeks after surgery.

Engaging in activity too soon increases the risk of putting strain on recovering muscles and tissues. Too much strain can cause the incision site to rupture, while submerging your incision under water can interfere with proper healing.

Patients experiencing serious complications from hernia mesh surgery are filing lawsuits. Learn more.

How Long After Surgery Might Complications Occur?

Complications can be experienced immediately following surgery, but several studies indicate complications can also occur years later. Research presents varying timeframes for how long hernia repairs last.

A 2021 study looked at 100 patients for 10 years following their ventral abdominal hernia repair. Patients in the study had no hernia recurrence three years post-surgery. There was a 10% recurrence after eight years, however. There were two central breakdowns of the mesh at seven years, and in nine other cases, the mesh had stretched across the defect by an average of 21%.

Late Dr. Robert Bendavid explains when hernia mesh complications can occur.

Research supports the role of a contaminated wound contributing to higher rates of mesh infection. One study found that patient frailty and suture repair of incisional hernia also contributed to a higher risk of complications.

Patient medical history plays a role in recurrence as well. People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have a higher rate of bulging and recurrences.

What Are the Most Common Complications?

The most common complication from hernia mesh surgery is pain. The most common serious complications reported to the FDA led to a recall of several mesh products responsible for these negative outcomes.

Possible Serious Complications
  • Adhesion (mesh becomes stuck to an internal organ)
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Recurrence (the hernia returns)

Depending on the severity of the complication, a patient may need additional surgeries to correct the problem. The nature of complications following hernia mesh surgery varies for each patient. Complications can also vary depending on the techniques used during the procedure and the type of mesh the patient received.

Can Hernia Mesh Be Removed if Complications Occur?

Hernia mesh can be removed if serious complications occur. For some complications, removal of mesh would most likely be required. Hernia recurrence, infections and chronic pain often lead to removal surgery.

There are several ways a surgeon may remove hernia mesh: open abdominal surgery and robotic or laparoscopic surgery. In many surgeries, the removal of the mesh and intravenous antibiotics corrects the problem.

Does Hernia Mesh Surgery Affect Pregnancy?

Doctors generally recommend delaying elective hernia repair for pregnant women until after delivery because any type of surgery can potentially pose a risk to the mother and the fetus. In some rare cases, women have required hernia surgery during pregnancy.

Some reports indicate those who have undergone laparoscopic hernia mesh surgery during pregnancy have done so without complications. Several studies show the efficacy of performing hernia repair in conjunction with a cesarean section.

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor About Hernia Mesh Surgery?

Before hernia mesh surgery, ask about the mesh used, its risks and benefits, the construction material and the doctor’s experience with the material. Inquire about patient experiences, recovery, surgery successes, mesh failures and what alternative options could be right for you.

Late Dr. Robert Bendavid offers questions that a patient should ask his or her doctor before hernia mesh surgery.

Ask your doctor about postoperative instructions. Once you’re in recovery, stay in touch with your doctor to discuss your progress. Be sure to report any challenges or side effects you have right away. Always ask questions about the next steps.

Are There Alternatives to Hernia Mesh?

Pure tissue repair is a surgical hernia mesh alternative. Proponents of pure tissue repair, including Dr. Robert Bendavid of the Shouldice Hernia Centre and University of Toronto, contend this approach has fewer risks and complications than repairs using hernia mesh.

Alternative options include Bassini, Desarda, Shouldice, Guarnieri and McVay/Cooper’s Ligament. It’s important to talk with your doctor about each of these repair techniques and what might be best for you.

Why Are People Filing Hernia Mesh Lawsuits?

Those who experience serious hernia mesh complications can face significant medical expenses and recovery time. Many choose to file hernia mesh lawsuits to receive compensation to cover damages such as pain, loss of income, medical expenses and loss of quality of life.

Lawsuits typically claim faulty design or defective manufacturing. They may also include claims that manufacturers knew about risks and failed to properly warn the public about possible issues and risks of mesh complications.

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