Hernia surgery is the only way to repair a hernia and keep it from coming back. Hernias won’t go away on their own, and they can cause pain and other complications when left untreated. Hernia repair is a common surgery — over a million are performed each year in the U.S., many of which involve the use of surgical mesh because of its solid track record for preventing hernia recurrence.
So why does surgical mesh sometimes get a bad rap? Well, a lot of the stigma can be traced to a series of television and radio ad campaigns funded by medical injury law firms looking for clients. The ads list every potential complication linked to surgical mesh, and they’re hard to forget.
However, most complications listed in the ads were caused by products that have been recalled and are no longer on the market. While all surgeries come with a slight risk of complications, surgical mesh doesn’t increase that risk. In fact, hernia repairs with surgical mesh may have shorter recovery times and reduced hernia recurrence rates.
Why do surgeons use surgical mesh for hernia repair?
When you have a hernia, an organ or internal tissue protrudes through a weak spot in your muscles, most commonly in the abdomen or groin. To fix this, a surgeon goes in to push the bulging organs or tissue back into place. Then, they repair the weak area in the muscle. Often, the surgeon will use hernia surgical mesh (along with stitches) to strengthen the muscle wall and lower the risk of the hernia returning.
Not all hernia repairs need mesh. Your healthcare provider can help you decide whether surgical mesh is the best option for repairing your hernia.
What is surgical mesh made of?
Surgical mesh is a medical device made up of synthetic materials (such as polyester or polypropylene) or biological materials (animal tissue, such as skin or intestine). There are a few categories of hernia mesh, all of which are safe for hernia repair:
- Synthetic and non-absorbable
- Synthetic and partially-absorbable
- Synthetic and absorbable
- Biological and absorbable
Your surgeon will choose a type of mesh based on your hernia’s location and size, as well as your overall health.
How painful is hernia surgery with mesh?
You won’t feel any pain during your hernia repair surgery, as you’ll be asleep under general anesthesia the whole time. After surgery, you may feel pain around your incision, but your hernia mesh won’t make you feel any more pain or other sensations than you would without it. You may even have a shorter recovery after your hernia repair, thanks to the mesh supporting your muscles as they heal.
How does your body heal around the mesh?
The process is the same whether your hernia surgical mesh is in your upper stomach, abdomen, or groin. Your surgeon will place the mesh across the weak spot in your muscle wall and attach it with stitches. As your muscles start to heal, muscle tissue grows into the pores in the surgical mesh. So, your muscles hold the mesh in place, and the mesh strengthens and stabilizes that part of your muscle wall.
Can you feel hernia mesh inside you?
No, you won’t be able to feel the mesh through your skin after your hernia repair. Surgical mesh is very thin and pliable, like cloth. Plus, hernia repair mesh is usually hidden underneath a layer of muscle. So, if you feel around your scar after your incision heals, you’ll only feel your muscle, not the mesh.
How long does hernia repair mesh last?
Some surgical mesh is non-absorbable, so it will stay in your body permanently to reinforce the repaired muscle area. Other mesh is completely or partially-absorbable. So, all or some of the mesh will dissolve in your body over time. As the mesh dissolves, your new muscle tissue growth takes over the job of supporting your muscle wall.
Does surgical mesh appear on or interfere with imaging tests or metal detectors?
Surgical mesh is made up of synthetic or biological materials, not metal. So, it won’t show up on a metal detector. Depending on the type of mesh you have, it may appear on X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or other imaging tests. It won’t interfere with the images, though. Your healthcare provider may even use diagnostic imaging tests to monitor your recovery after hernia replacement surgery with mesh.
If I need surgery in the future, do I need to tell my healthcare provider about the surgical mesh?
Yes, especially if you need an operation in the area where you have surgical mesh. It’s generally safe to have another surgery in the same area as your surgical mesh — just make sure your provider knows where the mesh is before they operate.
What are the side effects of using mesh in hernia repair?
The potential complications of hernia repair are largely the same whether or not your surgeon used mesh. These can include pain, bleeding, scar tissue adhesion, infection, and hernia recurrence. With hernia repairs with mesh, there’s also a small chance of the mesh migrating or shrinking. Most mesh-related complications can be diagnosed with imaging tests.
How much does hernia surgery with mesh cost?
The average cost of hernia repair surgery — with or without mesh — in the U.S. is $7,750, but prices can range as high as $12,500 or more. Figuring out an exact number is difficult, though. The total amount depends on so many things: your location, whether you have insurance, whether you get the surgery at an inpatient or outpatient facility, and the list goes on. That’s why healthcare facilities are so reluctant to give cost estimates before a procedure.
We can tell you what you should pay, though, and we break it down in our hernia repair cost blog post. If you want to get straight to specifics, we can help out there too, thanks to our relationships with medical providers across the country. Visit our homepage to compare hernia repair surgery costs at healthcare facilities in your city.