The Truth About Hernia Mesh

Mesh has been used for hernia repair since 1958. Mesh refers to any type of material which is woven and is used to reinforce the repair of hernias. Since 1958 there have been countless different advances in both the type of mesh as well as the way in which it is used during surgery. At the Columbia Hernia Center, it is our firm belief that for the right patient, and the right operation, mesh is invaluable in terms of preventing hernia recurrence.

The theory behind mesh placement is that hernias develop due to weaknesses in the abdominal wall. If a repair using only suture is performed, that weakness may still be present. To strengthen the abdominal wall and prevent the recurrence of a hernia, mesh is used and is integrated into the abdominal wall over time, making it stronger than before and distributing tension over a larger area instead of just at the incision. In several large studies, the use of mesh in groin hernia repairs is associated with up to a 50% decrease in recurrence compared to non-mesh repairs.

There are several different types of mesh. There are some that are permanent, some that are slowly absorbed over time, and some that have a mix of both properties. Some mesh is even created from the same material as used in heart valves.

While mesh does improve most hernia repairs, there are small risks associated with them. But these risks are not like any other implantable devices known to medicine such as knee or hip replacements, heart valve replacements, rods used in bone surgery, or even piercings. These risks include infection, chronic pain, and extremely rarely an allergic reaction. Under the right conditions, these risks are minimal.

You may have seen ads on Facebook or on late-night tv about mesh lawsuits. Not all mesh is created equal, and typically these lawsuits refer to bladder sling or vaginal sling meshes. The purpose of these meshes is to suspend an organ to prevent prolapse. However in doing so, they lay directly on the organ they are trying to lift. Therefore, the risk of hurting the organ is higher. Mesh used in hernia surgery is generally placed in between the layers of the abdominal wall, not touching any intestine, organs or other critical structures.

Below is a discussion of mesh by the American Hernia Society

Next Steps

If you are a candidate for hernia repair, the surgeons at the Columbia Hernia Center may be able to fix your hernia without the use of mesh. They are also adept at mesh removal and the treatment of chronic pain associated with mesh. Using new techniques such as directed nerve blocks and nerve excision, you may be able to get rid of your chronic pain without the need for mesh removal.

To set up a consultation with the Columbia Hernia Center, please call us at (212) 305-5947 or use our online appointment request form. We look forward to answering your questions and meeting your hernia care needs.