You risk strangulation of the bowel, the doctor suggests. You will need surgery. And we use surgical mesh.
Now you stop. Is that my only option?
The answer for 95 percent of doctors or surgeons who address hernias in this country is yes, it is your only option. Unless you seek a non-mesh repair surgeon, you are likely going to be implanted with a polypropylene mesh, used to reinforce the weakened area in your abdomen.
The complications with a hernia mesh are numerous, mesh eroding and shrinking, perforating surrounding tissues and organs, causing chronic pain and infection. Men have been known to lose a testicle if the mesh wraps around the spermatic cord. Mesh can perforate the colon causing deadly sepsis.
What's the chance of that happening?
According to surgeon, Dr. William Brown of Fremont California, there are one million hernia surgeries performed annually in the U.S. Of those, upwards of 10 to 15 percent will have pain, and ten-thousand patients will have to have a second, very extensive operation to get the mesh out. If there is nerve damage, that pain will never fully go away. You likely will never return to 100 percent, he says.
Doctors have largely been trained in mesh repairs but Dr. Brown argues,
" It's a stupid decision. If you do the absolute numbers, going from 4 to 3 percent recurrence sounds like mesh is much better, but its not a very big difference and if you run a ten percent risk of getting troubles from the use of mesh, that doesn't make any sense at all."
Why do the bulk of surgeons use polypropylene mesh? It's easy to teach a new surgeon, versus training on a pure tissue repair where one must be schooled in the layers of the body needed to make a tissue-only repair.
"Then there's the financial incentive to use mesh because of the huge profit margins. So the lack of time during training, the ease of teaching the mesh repairs, the profit margins, all go against the surgeons getting trained on pure tissue repairs and probably there's not too many professions out there who remember how to do it the old way. People who train the younger surgeons on the mesh repairs are getting older and retiring."
Dr. Brown, featured in this weeks Mesh News Desk Podcast - Hernia Mesh Insights (here) - can only name a handful of surgeons around the country who do a hernia repair without mesh. Mesh News Desk has a growing list of doctors. Please request a copy of the list by becoming a member and signing up for our Newsletter.