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The Safety of Hernia Mesh: Understanding Benefits and Concerns

Hernia repair surgery is a common medical procedure.  Over 1 million inguinal hernia repairs and 600,000 ventral/incisional abdominal hernia repairs are done every year.  Hernia mesh has become a prevalent method for reinforcing weakened abdominal walls. Hernia mesh, also known as surgical mesh, is a material that helps support the weak tissue around the hernia and aids in the healing process. While hernia mesh has proven to be effective in many cases, concerns about its safety have also arisen. In this blog, I will delve into the benefits of hernia mesh, its potential complications, and ways to ensure a safe and successful hernia repair.

Benefits of Hernia Mesh

  1. Reduced Risk of Recurrence: Hernias tend to recur if not repaired with mesh reinforcement. In most hernia repairs, mesh provides critical additional support to the weakened area, significantly reducing the risk of recurrence.
  2. Minimized Recovery Time: Hernia mesh allows for tension-free repair in inguinal hernia repairs, which often leads to a quicker recovery period compared to traditional suture-based repairs.
  3. Strengthens Tissue Healing: The mesh acts as a scaffold for the body's natural tissues to grow, aiding the healing process and creating a strong repair over time.
  4. Necessary for Complex Cases: Hernia mesh is particularly necessary for medium to large ventral/incisional hernias and cases involving weakened or scarred tissue where traditional repairs have failed.  The recurrence rate is so high without mesh that hernia surgery should not be performed if mesh cannot be used.

Potential Concerns and Complications

  1. Infection: One of the primary concerns is the risk of infection. While modern mesh materials are designed to resist infections, there is still a small chance of the mesh becoming a breeding ground for bacteria.
  2. Adhesions: Adhesions occur when scar tissue forms and binds nearby organs or tissues to the mesh, potentially causing discomfort or bowel obstruction.
  3. Migration or Shrinkage: There have been cases of the mesh migrating or shrinking over time, which could lead to discomfort, pain, or recurrence of the hernia.
  4. Allergic Reactions: Extremely rare, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to the materials used in the mesh.  I have not seen this in my nearly 20 years of practice.
  5. Chronic Pain: Chronic pain around the surgical site is a possible complication with any surgery (ie cardiac, plastic, orthopedic, etc.).  It is often attributed to irreversible tissue damage, nerve damage or the body's reaction to implants.

Ensuring Safety and Success

  1. Choose an Experienced Surgeon: Select a surgeon who specializes in hernia repair and has a track record of successful outcomes using mesh.
  2. Discuss Mesh Options: There are different types of hernia mesh available, including absorbable and non-absorbable varieties. Discuss with your surgeon which option is best for your situation.
  3. Understand the Risks: Before undergoing surgery, thoroughly discuss potential complications with your surgeon and have a clear understanding of the risks involved.
  4. Monitor and Report: After surgery, pay attention to any unusual symptoms or discomfort and promptly report them to your healthcare provider.
  5. Lifestyle Factors: Follow your surgeon's pre-operative instructions.  Many modifiable risk factors are associated with increased surgical risks, such as obesity, smoking, poorly controlled diabetes, malnutrition and immunosuppression.  Be as healthy as possible going into surgery to minimize complications.  After surgery, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and avoid activities that strain the surgical site during the recovery period.

Conclusion

Hernia mesh has provided significant benefits to countless patients by improving the success rate of hernia repair surgeries. While concerns about safety do exist, choosing the right surgeon, understanding the potential complications, and adhering to the surgeon’s instructions can greatly minimize these risks. As with any medical decision, it's important to have an open and informed discussion with your surgeon to determine the best approach for your individual situation.  

Call Dr. Rockson Liu at 510-465-5523 or fill out the consultation request form for an individualized consultation.  He will personally review your medical records and imaging, interview you, and examine you to find the best surgical (or non-surgical) option that is tailored for your specific situation.

Dr. Rockson Liu is One of the Best General and Hernia Surgeons in the United States

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“Dr. Rockson Liu performed colon surgery on me. I had full confidence in his skills and was very pleased with his performance. He explained thoroughly about using the robot in surgery as I was hesitant about its use. His bedisde manner is extraordinary and the way he cares for his patients is outstanding. He came to visit me on his day off in the hospital after surgery, as I was recovering. I was very pleased that I got such a skilled surgeon who is also a wonderful person.”

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Meet Dr. Rockson Liu, MD, FACS

The leading minimally-invasive, robotics-assisted general surgeon in the country

With 1000+ minimally-invasive, robotics-assisted surgeries completed, and a 100% success rate in ending recurrent hernias other surgeons were unable to solve, Dr. Liu has made a name for himself as the premier minimally-invasive general surgeon in the United States. 

Dr. Liu approaches every surgery with technical mastery and creative problem-solving. Those two skills allow for a faster recovery, minimal pain, and reduced scarring. 

About Dr. Liu

The leading minimally-invasive general and hernia repair surgeon on the West Coast, serving patients in the greater SF Bay Area. 

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