FAQs: Hernia Mesh Complications And Legal Action

What is a hernia?

The FDA describes a hernia as follows:

  • "A hernia occurs when an organ, intestine or fatty tissue squeezes through a hole or a weak spot in the surrounding muscle or connective tissue. Hernias often occur at the abdominal wall. Sometimes a hernia can be visible as an external bulge particularly when straining or bearing down."

There are a number of hernia types, predominately involving the groin and abdomen. Most common is the "inguinal" – inner groin – which necessitates 800,000 repairs alone every year, based on a report cited by the FDA.

What type of mesh do you use for hernia repair?

This question can only be answered in consultation with your physician.

That said, the National Institutes of Health reports that the use of mesh in hernia repair is "standard in most countries" and "widely accepted as superior" to sutures. Because mesh is standard, medical device companies have gone to market with many different types of mesh, in an effort to carve out a piece of this rather large customer base. (According to the FDA, surgeons perform roughly 1 million hernia repairs annually in the U.S.) It can be "difficult," as per the NIH, to choose which type of mesh to use in your surgery.

Suffice it to say, some hernia mesh products may be "better" than others, by the simple fact that medical device companies in the past have stopped marketing and selling some types of mesh in favor of others. The FDA itself has said, "[R]ecalled mesh products were the main cause of bowel perforation and obstruction complications," in its analysis of adverse event reports.

What hernia mesh products were recalled?

The FDA maintains lists of medical device recalls – all different kinds of medical devices that have caused injury or death to patients – yet troublingly, it is difficult to find an authoritative list of any public recalls of hernia mesh products.

Perhaps the better question is whether the FDA has ever recalled a hernia mesh product.

The answer may be no. In 2014, however, the FDA did issue an official Safety Communication advising of complication risks:

  • "The complications include adverse reactions to the mesh, adhesions (when the loops of the intestines adhere to each other or the mesh), and injuries to nearby organs, nerves or blood vessels. Other complications of hernia repair can occur with or without the mesh, including infection, chronic pain and hernia recurrence."

Despite the absence of information on public recalls, hernia mesh products subject to current litigation include the Atrium C-Qur, Bard Ventralexno, and Ethicon Physiomesh, among others.

What are the common complications of hernia mesh?

Although there can be complications in all hernia repairs, even those in which surgeons did not use hernia mesh, the FDA reports that these are the most common complications with recalled mesh:

  • Adhesion
  • Infection
  • Obstruction
  • Pain
  • Perforation
  • Recurrence

These complications may cause a variety of serious health problems, including bowel obstruction (causing illness and/or loss of function), internal bleeding and chronic pain, among others. Serious infection leading to sepsis and organ damage is another possible complication, especially in cases of hernia mesh degradation.

Do I have a case?

Our attorneys can help advise you on your course of action. Not all cases warrant legal action. Complications may result from a variety of factors, even in hernia repairs that did not involve a mesh. Hernia recurrence is very common, for instance, and it may not be from the mesh itself.

However, as the FDA has reported, hernia mesh products no longer on the market have caused significant problems. These include adhesion to inner organs, perforation of organs, and adverse reactions of the body to the mesh itself. And the question remains whether some other hernia mesh products still marketed and sold today are truly safe for patients.

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