Hernia Mesh Pain

Hernia mesh pain can occur immediately after surgery or years later, causing discomfort in the stomach, abdomen, groin, legs or testicles. Symptoms include a burning sensation, inflammation, swelling and tingling.

Last Modified: June 12, 2024
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How Long Does Hernia Mesh Pain Last?

Pain is a common complication following hernia mesh repair surgery. Hernia mesh, a medical device often made from polypropylene, can cause an inflammatory response, resulting in pain lasting three to six months following surgery.

Some patients begin to experience chronic and debilitating hernia mesh pain years later. The late Dr. Robert Bendavid, a Shouldice Hospital surgeon specializing in hernia repair, noted that some patients’ pain may last for years. According to Bendavid, “If a patient has had a mesh inserted already, half the time they will develop a pain problem in about five years or up to 17 years.”

Robert Bendavid
“If a patient has had a mesh inserted already, half the time they will develop a pain problem in about five years or up to 17 years.”
Late Dr. Robert Bendavid Fmr. Department of Surgery, Shouldice Hospital and University of Toronto.

Patients may experience recurring pain after hernia mesh surgery. Consult your doctor if you experience chronic pain, as this may indicate a reaction to or an issue with the mesh.

What Causes Hernia Mesh Pain?

Skin, muscle or nerve injuries can cause pain after hernia mesh surgery. According to Bendavid, “The most common cause of mesh pain is the mesh itself. Polypropylene mesh has a tendency to erode into adjacent tissues.” Longer or more extensive surgeries can worsen pain severity.

Experiencing persistent pain years after the surgery could be a sign of complication such as infection or another severe reaction.

Common hernia locations in men and women
Hernia mesh pain can occur in and around the hernia surgery site.

As many as 10% to 12% of patients may experience chronic groin pain after inguinal mesh repair due to operation-related or mesh-related factors.

Robert Bendavid
“The most common cause of mesh pain is the mesh itself. Polypropylene mesh has a tendency to erode into adjacent tissues.”
Late Dr. Robert Bendavid Fmr. Department of Surgery, Shouldice Hospital and University of Toronto.

Bendavid explained that the mesh’s properties often cause hernia mesh pain years after the surgery and that mesh manufacturers have downplayed the risks. He emphasized that hernia mesh lawsuits in U.S. courts are further evidence of mesh-related health problems or injuries.

Common Causes of Hernia Mesh Pain
Reactions to Mesh
Hernia mesh can cause pain due to irritation or inflammation. Synthetic materials in the mesh can cause severe allergic reactions or immune responses, but not all patients experience adverse reactions.
Mesh Erosion and Migration
Hernia mesh migration can cause complications in the testes, intestines, bladder and other structures. It can lead to persistent lower urinary tract infections and painful intercourse. The incidence of dysejaculation, which is a searing or burning sensation right before, during or after ejaculation, has risen to 3.1% — a 7,750% increase — since the adoption of mesh, according to Shouldice Hospital. A 2022 case study published by the World Journal of Clinical Cases illustrates the effects of mesh migration. The case study presented a man with a history of hernia repair surgery experiencing severe pain in his lower right abdomen. During a laparoscopic examination, doctors found that the mesh used had moved inside his abdomen and was damaging his small intestine. Surgery was required to fix the issue.
Nerve Entrapment
Nerve entrapment can cause pain in the groin. This happens when nerves in the area get compressed or damaged due to surgery. This condition can also cause adhesions or scar tissue, further contributing to pain and discomfort.

Types of Hernia Mesh Pain

Different complications from hernia mesh surgeries can result in various types of pain. Hernia mesh pain can be abnormal or severe.

Types of Hernia Mesh Pain
  • Burning sensation around the surgery site
  • Feeling like there is something strange in the body
  • Inflammation or swelling
  • Pain when walking, sitting or sleeping
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pins-and-needles sensation
  • Radiating or spreading pain
  • Shooting pains
  • Testicle pain
  • Tingling
  • Tugging or pulling sensation when moving
Late Dr. Robert Bendavid describes how hernia mesh complications can have a wide range of emotional impact on a patient.

According to Shouldice Hospital, some studies found the rates of pain can be as high as 60%. The pain was often “severe enough to bring a change in lifestyle, to cause a severe handicap in ordinary activities or make life unbearable.”

Managing Pain From Hernia Mesh Surgery

The goal of treatment for hernia mesh pain is to minimize discomfort. The first line of treatment is typically medication, including both prescription and over-the-counter pain medicines.

Primary Pain Treatments
  • Conventional analgesic
  • Gabapentinoids
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Pain management injections
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor/serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

Sometimes, a patient’s pain will ease with time. However, if pain persists, there are several other treatment options available.

Persistent Pain Treatments
Nerve Ablation
A minimally invasive procedure that uses electrical currents to lessen pain.
PRP Injections
Plasma-rich protein injections can promote healing and ease nerve pain.
Doctors may recommend hernia mesh removal or a neurectomy to remove all or part of the nerve. They may also recommend both in some cases.

“The only definitive answer is as thorough a removal of the mesh as possible,” Bendavid said. “Certainly the best results have been obtained by mesh removal, but surgeons are loath to return to an area that has become scarred, has invaded adjacent tissues and can be a tricky and dangerous dissection.”

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