When Marlex Mesh Erosion Appears as Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Jane Akre
July 20, 2012

Marlex Mesh Erosion, J of the American Board of Family Medicine

July 20, 2012 ~ In this published report in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Jan-Feb 2012, doctors from Dewitt Amy Hospital, Fort Belvoir, VA, determined irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be caused by a mesh complication.

In this case a 50-year-old woman had Marlex hernia mesh implanted 13 years earlier to treat periumbilical herniorrhaphy or a protrusion of fat or intestines outside of the muscle. It shows up as a bump near the bellybutton.

The woman had one bowel movement a week and symptoms diagnosed as IBS.

Large amounts of Marlex were found in her stool and a colonoscopy diagnosed her with IBS. She received Zelnorm and MiraLAX but that did not relieve the trapped umbilical hernia.

The Marlex mesh “had fully eroded into the lumen of the small bowel, causing a partial obstruction” and something called fecalization. Doctors resected a section of small bowel and the patient was relieved of her IBS-like symptoms.

This case raises the possibility that mesh might erode into the bowel causing symptoms that might be written off as IBS unrelated to mesh. This patient lived that way for 10 years. Two days after surgery she reports she was having more frequent bowel movements and her bloating resolved. The article says a PubMed search found 14 other articles that made reference to a similar Marlex mesh migration.

Marlex Mesh

PerFix mesh plug, Scandanavian University Press

Marlex is the brand name of Phillips Petroleum Company which registered a federal trademark on June 8, 1959, the same year it was first used in inguinal hernia repair. Marlex is a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) which was invented by Phillips Petroleum chemists to be used for Wham-O hula hoops and milk jugs.

Since the early days Marlex mesh is now made of knitted polypropylene fibers, giving it more pliability. The Davol/Bard Composix Kugel mesh patch was recalled by the FDA in March 2006 and C.R. Bard makes the PerFix Plug and Patch of Marlex.

Learn More:

Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Jan-Feb 2012


JABFM, of article May-June 2012, Letter to Editor (PDF)


JABFM, Editor’s Note (PDF)


Use of Marlex mesh in the repair of recurrent incisional hernia


Topix, Marlex hernia repair mesh


Marlex, a Phillips Petroleum Company


Archives of Surgery, May 1967, Marlex Mesh Grafts in Inguinal Hernia Repair


FDA Notice of recall, Davol/Bard Composix Kugel mesh patch


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