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Abdominal Mesh “Like a Chunk of Iron in my Stomach”

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Surgical mesh for hernia repairs has increased, and so too has surgical mesh lawsuits filed by patients dealing with pain and anger.

Harrisburg, PAKelly and John are just two of more than one million hernia repair surgeries performed yearly in the U.S., and 90 percent use surgical mesh. Recent reports indicate that one out of every three patients have suffered common mesh complications, some of which led to surgical mesh lawsuits.

“My husband John underwent gallbladder surgery five years ago and had surgical mesh implanted because some of the gallbladder couldn’t be removed,” says Kelly. “Four months later John developed a high fever due to infection from the mesh and had to be hospitalized.” He had another surgery to remove the mesh but it wasn’t successful. Now John has other medical issues and another attempt to remove the mesh is not an option – he cannot undergo another surgery. Kelly thinks her husband will be on pain meds permanently.

Hernia Mesh Pain and Anger

Kelly had hernia mesh surgery in 2008 and she has been in pain ever since. “It feels like I have a chunk of iron in my stomach because of all the scar tissue around the mesh,” she says. "From my medical reports I found out that I was implanted with Bard hernia mesh made of polypropylene and only recently I discovered that thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Bard claiming design defects. Now I deal with pain and anger.”

Almost 10,000 claims against Bard are currently pending in the federal court system and hernia mesh trials are expected to begin in January 2021. “I’ve been told that this mesh can’t be removed because it has merged with my intestines. I asked my doctor if I’ll be dealing with pain for the rest of my life,” says Kelly. “He didn’t have an answer. The mesh manufacturers have to be accountable and doctors shouldn’t be so gullible – why didn’t they know about these mesh products before putting them in our bodies?”

The FDA and Hernia Mesh

Hernia mesh lawsuits allege the manufacturers did not warn the public of the known issues, risks and hazards of the hernia mesh devices. As well, the FDA had omitted any warning about complication rates and risks. Instead, the agency said that “the use of surgical mesh may also improve patient outcomes through decreased operative time and minimized recovery time.” It further states that, “mesh complications are likely due to recalled mesh products” especially as the “main cause of bowel perforation and obstruction complications.”

But the FDA’s suggestion doesn’t explain how hernia mesh complications may have affected up to 170,000 patients, according to a British Medical Journal (BMJ) report about a BBC investigation in 2018. (Since 2005 hernia mesh manufacturers recalled over 211,000 units from the market.) The BMJ reported that complications could be as high as 30 percent.

About one year before the BMJ report, the journal Membranes concluded that hernia repair with surgical mesh still faces adverse effects such as infection, adhesion, and bowel obstruction, mostly related to the chemical and structural nature of the mesh itself, such as polypropylene Kelly had implanted.

Interestingly, the researchers explained that, “Surgical meshes, in particular those used to repair hernias, have been in use since 1891. Since then, research in the area has expanded, given the vast number of post-surgery complications such as infection, fibrosis, adhesions, mesh rejection, and hernia recurrence.”


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