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The Truth About Hernia Mesh

When you have a hernia, part of an internal organ or tissue bulges through a weak area of your muscle, most commonly the abdomen.

Since hernias will not go away on their own and can cause pain and health problems when left untreated, hernia repair surgery is needed to fully repair a hernia. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, more than a million hernia repair surgeries are performed in the United States each year.

There are two main parts to hernia repair surgery. First, the surgeon places the bulging organs or tissues back inside the abdomen. Second, the surgeon will fix the weak spot in the abdominal muscle so the hernia will not come back. This surgery can be performed using open, laparoscopic or robotic techniques.

In many cases, surgeons will use a medical device called hernia surgical mesh as part of hernia repair surgery. This device can help strengthen the repair of your abdominal wall and reduce your risk of recurrence, or when the hernia comes back or breaks through another weakened area in your abdominal wall.

What to Know about Hernia Mesh

There has been some conflicting information about surgical mesh in hernia repair. What is the truth?

Surgical mesh use in hernia repair is considered safe and effective for most patients.

Since the main goal of hernia repair surgery is to repair your hernia and prevent hernia recurrence, surgical mesh is often the most helpful tool in ensuring your surgery is a success.

Surgeons typically use surgical mesh—either made from synthetic materials or biological tissue—as a common part of most hernia repair procedures. Not all hernia repairs require surgical mesh placement, but most do.

Why has there been negative advertising about surgical mesh?

Washington University hernia surgeon Jeffrey A. Blatnik, MD.
Dr. Jeffrey A. Blatnik, MD

In a study of patients pursuing care at the Hernia Center, hernia surgeon Jeffrey Blatnik, MD, and a team of researchers from the Department of Surgery determined that 93% of patients had heard of surgical mesh through the media. The study’s participants had become aware of surgical hernia meshes through negative advertisements on television and radio funded by medical injury law firms. The ads displayed potential complications related to hernia repairs with surgical mesh.

The negative representation of surgical mesh in the media was associated with recalled mesh products that are no longer on the market.

Despite these litigation advertisements and waning public perception of surgical mesh, hernia repairs using surgical mesh have an excellent track record. Most patients who have surgical mesh placed during their hernia repair procedures do very well and do not have any complications related to their mesh.

Like any implantable medical device—such as a heart valve replacement or vascular graft—there is always a small risk of potential complications, but these same complications are also seen in procedures that do not utilize mesh. It is important to discuss these risks with your surgeon prior to your procedure.

Personalized Care at the Washington University Hernia Center

When you meet with a Washington University hernia surgeon, you will have a detailed discussion regarding your hernia repair treatment options. The expert surgeon will determine if a type of surgical mesh is best suited for your type of repair, tailor a treatment plan based on your individual needs, and help you get back to normal activities after surgery.

As a patient, it is important to make informed decisions regarding your care. Surgeons at the Washington University Hernia Center encourage patients to prepare for their consultation and bring any questions about the procedure to their appointment to ensure they have all their concerns addressed before their treatment. A simple list of questions you may want to ask during your consultation may be:

  • Will I need mesh for my hernia repair?
  • What is the mesh you will use made of?
  • What is the name of the mesh you will use?
  • Will the mesh show up on or interfere with imaging tests like X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans?
  • If I require abdominal surgery in the future, what should I tell my health care providers regarding the surgical mesh and where it was placed?

To make an appointment with one of the expert surgeons at the Washington University Hernia Center, please visit the care team’s website at hernia.wustl.edu.