Hernia surgery is one of the most common medical operations in the country. There are different types of surgeries doctors may use to treat this condition, and surgical products such as mesh or sutures are often used. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), surgeons perform over 1 million hernia repair surgeries each year in the United States. Unfortunately, there are several risks that come with hernia surgery, including chronic pain and the need for additional surgery in the future. According to The Wall Street Journal, over 30% of patients will experience chronic pain after hernia surgery. There are also many patients who experience hernia recurrence. Defective hernia mesh is often the cause of these issues. Manufacturers have the responsibility of ensuring that their products are safe for patients, and they should be held accountable for errors in their products. Many of these manufacturers have had their hernia products recalled and continue to face individual and class action lawsuits as a result of their defective products. Many patients who have filed lawsuits have received compensation for their suffering.
What is a Hernia?
A hernia occurs when a portion of an organ, intestine, or fatty tissue squeezes through a weak spot or hole in a surrounding muscle or connective tissue. Pressure pushes part of the organ through a muscle’s opening or weak spot. Most hernias occur in the abdomen, and these cases are called ventral hernias. Different actions, habits, and medical conditions can increase the likelihood of a hernia, including obesity, lifting heavy objects, pregnancy, constipation, diarrhea, persistent coughing or sneezing, poor nutrition, and smoking. Sometimes the muscle weakness that contributes to a hernia may be present at birth, but most occur later in life. The most common types of hernias and their locations include the following: ventral (in the abdominal wall), inguinal (in the inner groin), femoral (in the upper thigh/outer groin), incisional (in the abdomen, through a surgical incision or scar), umbilical (in the belly button), hiatal (inside the abdomen, along the diaphragm).
The most common hernia symptom is a bulge at the hernia site, which one can often see and touch. Other symptoms aside from a bulge may include pain or discomfort, feelings of weakness or pressure in the hernia area, and in cases of hiatal hernias, acid reflux. Symptoms may vary depending on hernia type, and some people may show no symptoms at all. Some people with hernias may only discover the medical condition after a physical exam. Hernias that doctors cannot diagnose with physical exams alone are diagnosed with an x-ray, an ultrasound, or an endoscopy – a procedure in which a doctor inserts an endoscope, a flexible tube with an attached camera, into the mouth to examine the patient’s digestive tract.
There are different types of precautions, surgeries, and surgical products used to treat hernias, and only a doctor can determine what methods may be best for each individual patient. Some doctors may suggest “watchful waiting,” when a doctor monitors a hernia over a certain period of time to make sure it does not get larger. Surgeons may recommend watchful waiting for patients who are not experiencing complications from a hernia. Those experiencing complications from the condition may need laparoscopic surgery or open repair surgery. In laparoscopic surgery, doctors make several small incisions and use a small camera and miniature surgical equipment to repair a hernia. Compared to open repair surgery, laparoscopic surgery is less damaging to surrounding tissue, and patients have a shorter recovery time. A downside to this type of surgery is a higher rate of hernia recurrence. In open repair surgery, a surgeon makes a small incision near the hernia and repairs the weak muscle. This surgery requires a longer recovery period, normally up to 6 weeks. Doctors determine the surgery a patient will need depending on the size and type of hernia they have.
A surgeon can perform hernia repair surgery with or without hernia mesh, but most operations use this type of surgical implant. Hernia mesh is a product used to strengthen the weak spot or repair the hole in the muscle. Using mesh can help to decrease the chance of hernia recurrence. Mesh can be synthetic or non-synthetic (made from animal tissue). Synthetic mesh can be absorbable, non-absorbable, or a combination of both. Non-synthetic mesh is absorbable, and, like all absorbable mesh, will degrade over time. Absorbable mesh is not intended for long-term reinforcement. In using absorbable mesh, doctors intend for new muscle growth to eliminate a hernia as the mesh degrades. Doctors use non-absorbable, synthetic mesh for hernias that need long-term support.
Though mesh is more commonly used to repair hernias, doctors may also use sutures, more commonly called stitches, in combination with mesh. Sutures are less often used as a replacement for mesh, but they can be preferred if the hernia is small. Larger hernias typically require mesh products. Sutures usually come with fewer complications than mesh, which can possibly move or shrink. Complications from hernia mesh continue to be a problem for many patients. Patients can experience a variety of adverse effects including chronic pain, infection, hernia recurrence, and in rare cases organ damage. Defective hernia mesh is often the cause of these complications, with different types of mesh being recalled and many patients filing lawsuits against manufacturers.
Hernia Mesh Compilations, Recalls, and Lawsuits
There are many adverse effects of hernia surgery that a patient can potentially experience, even when mesh is not a part of the surgery. These complications include pain, infection, hernia recurrence, adhesion (when scar tissue forms around hernia mesh, causing organs to bunch), obstruction (when scar tissue forms around the mesh, causing blockage), constipation, fever, fatigue, irritable bowels, and allergic reaction. In cases of infection, the body rejects the implanted mesh, which is attacked by the autoimmune system. Many of these adverse effects are the result of defective mesh, which in certain cases can migrate, shrink, or perforate. Rare complications resulting from defective mesh include long-term or permanent organ damage, neurological damage, or autoimmune disorder.
The serious complications from defective mesh have resulted in many mesh recalls and lawsuits against manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson, Atrium Medical Corporation, and C.E. Bard. In 2011, C.E. Bard announced that they would pay $184 million dollars to resolve over 3,000 lawsuits against their hernia mesh products. This manufacturer continues to face lawsuits for its mesh products. In 2016, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily recalled their Physiomesh™ Composite Mesh product after concluding that patients with the mesh had a higher rate of hernia recurrence. In 2013, the FDA recalled Atrium Medical Corporation’s C-Qur Mesh and in 2016, the company received a permanent injunction by the FDA after failing to adequately address safety violations. Both Johnson & Johnson, Atrium Medical Corporation, and other manufacturing companies are currently facing pending mesh lawsuits filed this year.
Some of the mesh products being recalled are made with a type of plastic called polypropylene. Despite medical guidelines that prohibit permanent implantation of polypropylene into the body, some manufacturers continue to use the plastic because it is cheaper than other materials. C.R. Bard is facing lawsuits due to one of their mesh products that used this type of plastic. The FDA has also faced some criticism for allowing these products into the marketplace and for allegedly downplaying the issue of mesh recalls. By the time many of these mesh products are recalled, it is already too late for many patients, who have already had the products implanted into their bodies.
Finding a Personal Injury Attorney for Defective Hernia Mesh
Hernia patients who have experienced complications from defective mesh products may take legal action against manufacturers. Patients may also be entitled to compensation. The types of damages people can claim include complications from the mesh, pain and suffering (past, current, or future), medical bill costs, wage loss, loss of earning capacity, and emotional distress. Many patients experiencing similar complications from the same mesh product have filed class action lawsuits. Patients may also choose to file individual lawsuits against a manufacturer depending on their particular case.
Those with hernias should remain vigilant before and after surgery for any mesh recalls. The FDA has a database for people to search for medical recalls. Patients who learn that their hernia mesh product has been recalled should immediately speak with their doctors. Those who discover that their complications may be caused by defective hernia mesh should also contact an experienced attorney for legal guidance. Hernia patients in Florida can seek legal aid from The Law Offices of Thomas J. Lavin. In practice since 1984, our experienced personal injury attorneys have represented clients in numerous cases, including medical malpractice, slip/trip and fall accidents, car accidents, and many other practice areas. An attorney can ease the lawsuit process and help you receive the maximum amount of compensation to which you are entitled. Our offices offer free consultations and do not charge a client until they receive compensation for their case. Call us at (561) 557-4546 or send us a message through the contact page of our website for a free consultation.