Hernia Surgery Meshes

Hernias are quite common, as is hernia repair surgery. Each year in the U.S. over one million hernia repair surgeries are performed. Formerly, abdominal wall hernias were closed with primary suture repair. In 1958, polypropylene mesh was first used to strengthen the repair, lessening the chances of hernia recurrence.

Currently, about 90 percent of all inguinal hernia repairs are performed with mesh. This has improved patient outcomes worldwide.

What is surgical mesh?

Surgical mesh is a prosthetic medical device used to provide additional support to the area of the hernia. You can think of meshes metaphorically as similar to a patch on clothing, used to help the repair remain successful. Today there are a wide variety of surgical meshes available that have received FDA approval. They are fabricated with either synthetic materials or animal tissue.

How does hernia surgery with mesh done?

Prior to the development and common use of mesh, hernia surgery was typically done with open surgery, requiring one or two 3- to 6-inch incisions. Once the area with the hernia was accessed, the edges of healthy tissue around the hernia were pulled together and sewn with sutures. Then the incision was closed. This method had a high rate of recurrence due to the inherent weakness of the area that had developed the hernia.

When Dr. Reiner uses mesh, this is referred to as non-tension hernia repair. Instead of pulling the tissue around the hernia together, a piece of mesh is positioned to reinforce the area and fixed in place with sutures and/or staples. 

The mesh is flexible, and it remains in place. New tissue grows through and over the mesh, and this adds more strength to the repair. These procedures can usually be performed laparoscopically.

What are the different types of meshes used in hernia repair?

There are several different materials used to make hernia mesh. These include polypropylene, polyester, Gore-Tex, and animal-derived tissue. There are also different kinds of mesh, including patches (they go over or under the damaged tissue), plugs (they are placed inside the hole in the tissue), and sheets (can be custom fit to the patient). There is a huge assortment of meshes available. Dr. Reiner matches the type of mesh used to the patient’s unique situation.

These are the three main types of hernia mesh:

  • Absorbable hernia mesh — This type of mesh will degrade over time and lose its support. This is used as a short-term fix commonly for patients who are expected to gradually develop new tissue that will provide the long-term strength necessary for their repair.
  • Non-absorbable hernia mesh — These meshes are permanent solutions. They are compatible with the body and the body adds strength to the area by building new tissue around the mesh.
  • Animal-derived hernia mesh — These meshes typically come from the skin or intestines of a pig or cow. This animal tissue has been processed and disinfected to be suitable for use as an implanted device. Animal-derived meshes are absorbable.

Is surgical hernia mesh safe?

The main problem with hernia surgery has been recurrence of the hernia, along with chronic pain around the sutures used to close the hernia. These problems have been dramatically lessened with the introduction of mesh to strengthen these repairs. As with all surgeries, there are risks and potential complications. However, Dr. Reiner believes the value of hernia meshes far outweighs their possible complications, especially when considering the risk without mesh is having the hernia recur and another surgery.

The FDA has approved the meshes we use, and, if possible, Dr. Reiner uses laparoscopic methods, which makes for shorter incisions and easier recovery.  

What are the risks and complications of hernia surgery using mesh?

The most common adverse events for all surgical repair of hernias — with or without mesh — are pain, infection, hernia recurrence, scar-like tissue that sticks together (adhesion), blockage of the large or small intestine (obstruction), bleeding, abnormal connection between organs, vessels, or intestines (fistula), fluid build-up at the surgical site (seroma), and a hole in neighboring tissues or organs (perforation).

The most common complications following hernia repair with mesh are pain, infection, recurrence, adhesion, and bowel obstruction.

Schedule a client consultation

If you are suffering from a hernia, the first step to improving your health and getting back to your regular pain-free life is to schedule a consultation with a hernia specialist. Dr. Mark Reiner is a top surgeon in the field of minimally invasive hernia repair, and has performed thousands of successful hernia operations. Contact Dr. Reiner today by calling 212.879.6677 or filling out the form on this page.

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