Hernias can be extremely painful and are caused when organs push through the abdominal muscles that hold them in place. The only way to fix a hernia is through surgery and many times hernia mesh is used. While this may seem like a simple or common fix, there are hernia mesh failure complications that you should be aware of.

Hernia mesh failure is painful. Learn to spot the symptoms.

Types of Hernia Mesh

There are basically two types of hernia mesh used: synthetic or animal based. Synthetics tend to look like sheets of window screen and can be absorbable, non-absorbable or both. Absorbable is for short term use and holds the tissue together as it heals and new tissue is formed. Nonabsorbable is for long term repairs and provides permanent reinforcement for the hernia. Animal derived mesh uses the intestine or skin of a cow or pig that has been sanitized for use in surgical procedures.

While animal derived products have the lowest rate of infection, they have a high rate of hernia recurrence. However, synthetic meshes are a foreign body which causes an increased rate of infections and adverse effects including mesh breakage, organ perforation and mesh migration. Even within the synthetic mesh category, there are countless types of mesh that vary by material, pore size, weight, strength and elasticity.

Hernia Mesh Failure Rate

According to a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that patients who had incisional hernia repair (a hernia that occurred at a previous surgery incision) with mesh had a lower risk of hernia recurrence over five years as opposed to when just sutures were used. However, the benefits were considered to be minimal since the mesh caused a variety of complications including bowel obstruction, bowel perforation, bleeding and infection.

Additionally, the U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that incisional hernia repair involving mesh has a recurrence rate of 20-45%. Overall, patients with complex ventral hernias (a bulge in the abdominal wall which can include incisional hernias) have a recurrence rate of approximately 30-40% nationally.

Hernia Mesh Failure Signs & Symptoms

Unfortunately, hernia mesh failure rates are high and if you have had hernia mesh surgery, it’s critical to your health to know what signs to be aware of in case a mesh complication arises. Here are some common hernia mesh failure symptoms:

  1. One of the most common problems with hernia mesh surgery is infection. Common symptoms of infection include:
    • the area where the incision is located is warm or hot
    • you may experience flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever or chills
    • your teeth may become weak, chipped or may even fall out
  1. The site of the surgery isn’t healing. When there is fluid buildup, this is called a seroma and prevents the wound from healing properly.
  2. Bulging at the site of the hernia. This can mean that the mesh has expanded and the organs may be pushing through the tissue again.
  3. Severe pain in the abdomen could be a sign that the mesh has eroded and migrated, there is a bowel obstruction, an organ has been perforated or that other dangerous complications are taking place. Contact your doctor immediately.
  4. Chronic pain is found in about 11% of patients who have had hernia mesh surgery. This can mean that a nerve is compressed by the implant or that the mesh is eroding.
“Hernia Surgical Mesh Implants”. FDA. Accessed October 24, 2017. https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/HerniaSurgicalMesh/default.htm
“Study finds mixed results for use of mesh for hernia repair”. Science Daily. Accessed October 24, 2017. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161018094928.htm
“Recurrent Hernia”. UCSF Center for Hernia Repair & Abdominal Wall Reconstruction. Accessed October 24, 2017. https://herniacenter.surgery.ucsf.edu/conditions–procedures/recurrent-hernia.aspx
“Hernia Reoperation Rate Underestimates Real Recurrence Numbers”. American College of Surgeons. Accessed October 24, 2017. http://www.mdedge.com/acssurgerynews/article/55911/general-surgery/hernia-reoperation-rate-underestimates-real-recurrence
“Mesh expansion as the cause of bulging after abdominal wall hernia repair”. Science Direct. Accessed October 24, 2017. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210261216303935
“Chronic abdominal pain secondary to mesh erosion into cecum following incisional hernia repair: a case report and literature review”. NCBI. Accessed October 24, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959323/