Surgical Mesh

Surgical mesh was designed in the 1950s to correct abdominal hernias. The woven material is placed below the skin to patch the abdominal hole and block intestines and other tissues from protruding through the abdominal wall.

Surgical mesh can be made of biological materials or synthetic materials like polypropylene, polytetrafluoroethylene, polyester fibers or stainless steel. The size, shape, thickness and flexibility vary based on the surgeon’s needs. Often, the mesh comes in a prepackaged kit with the necessary tools, to make the procedure easier.

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that hundreds of thousands of hernia repair surgeries are performed each year — with and without surgical mesh — and patients typically recover quickly. However, the FDA has received reports of adverse reactions to the mesh, adhesions (where the loops of the intestines attach to each other or the mesh), and injury to organs, nerves or blood vessels.

 

Overall, the treatment of hernias with surgical mesh is considered successful, so doctors wanted to use it in other parts of the body that required additional support. In the 1970s, they began inserting surgical mesh abdominally to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP). In 1996, the FDA approved the first mesh product for treatment of stress urinary incontinence (SUI). The first mesh product for treatment of prolapse was approved in 2002.

Instead of inserting the mesh through abdominal incisions, however, surgeons have recently embraced the idea of implanting the mesh transvaginally (through the vagina). This choice has been disastrous for thousands of women, who have suffered severe complications such as organ perforation and erosion of the mesh. Even revision surgeries cannot always remove the mesh or correct the internal trauma.