Bowel Obstruction as a Complication of Hernia Mesh Devices

Bowel obstruction can be an adverse event of hernia repair surgery, particularly when the procedure was completed using a defective mesh model. If you have experienced bowel blockage or other injuries from a defective implant, you may be entitled to file a claim for compensatory damages.

If you have recently had hernia repair surgery, then you may have questions and concerns. At Shouse Law Group, our personal injury lawyers believe in providing information so that you can make informed decisions about your health. Here, we provide answers to some common questions. After reviewing this information, if you still have questions, contact us.

Hernia mesh
Bowel obstruction can be a complication of hernia repair surgery, particularly when the procedure was completed using a defective mesh model.

1. What is bowel obstruction?

Bowel obstruction refers to blockage -- either partial or whole -- of part of the small or large intestines. When blocked, food or liquid cannot properly pass through the digestive system. This condition can become serious or even life-threatening if it is not properly treated.

2. How does hernia repair surgery cause bowel obstruction?

Hernia repair surgery can be performed either via open or laparoscopic surgery. Intestinal blockage is most likely to occur after laparoscopic surgery. If mesh was used, the implant may not have been applied so that it fully covers the area completely. Regardless or not if mesh was used, a blockage can also occur if adhesions form as a result of hernia repair surgery. In these instances, the body develops scar tissue when healing after the hernia repair surgery. This scar tissue may attach itself to other tissue or the mesh and then intrude on nearby organs, like the small and/or large intestines. 1

Both of these situations usually occur relatively soon after the surgery has been conducted, but bowel obstruction can also occur years after the hernia repair surgery. The intestines can eventually become blocked in cases where the mesh has migrated over time and embeds deep into the tissue. 2

3. What are the symptoms of bowel obstruction caused by hernia repair?

The symptoms of intestinal obstruction are generally the same regardless if the blockage was caused by hernia repair surgery or another health issue, but the symptoms can vary depending if it is the small- or large-bowel that has been obstructed.

3.1 What are the symptoms of small-bowel blockage?

  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain that comes in waves of 5 to 15 minutes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to pass gas through the rectum
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Tender abdomen
  • Rapid pulse and/or breathing simultaneously with cramps

3.2 What are the symptoms of large-bowel blockage?

  • Bloated abdomen
  • Abdominal pain ranging anywhere from mild to severe
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea (as a result of liquid stool leaking) 3

4. What are the complications?

Complications of bowel obstruction can be mild to serious, even life-threatening if it goes untreated. Two primary complications include the death of tissue and infection.

  • Tissue death. Bowel obstruction can cut off the blood supply to part of your intestines. When that occurs, the intestinal wall dies. This dead tissue can easily tear, and if it does, serious infection is a high risk.
  • Infection. Infection in the abdominal wall is known as peritonitis. Infection can occur when the intestine is perforated and contents leak into the peritoneal cavity. This can cause septic shock and is life-threatening. Immediate medical attention is necessary, which usually means surgery. 4

5. How is bowel obstruction diagnosed and what is the prognosis?

Your doctor will first listen to and feel your abdomen, and if a blockage is suspected, he or she will confirm it by X-ray. If the blockage is in the large intestine, the doctor may also perform a colonoscopy, inserting a tube through the rectum to view and confirm obstruction.

Once diagnosed, the prognosis is very good for any otherwise healthy person. As for anyone else who has a health issue, the prognosis is dependent on your age, health issues, and timing of the treatment.

6. How is bowel blockage treated?

If your bowel obstruction was caused by a mesh implant or adhesion brought on by hernia repair surgery, then treatment of this condition will almost always require surgery. Surgery will allow the surgeon to remove the cause of the obstruction, whether it is a mesh device or adhesion or both. During the surgery, the doctor may also repair the hernia and remove any damaged or dead tissue.

7. Why should you contact a personal injury lawyer if you sustain bowel obstruction after you have had hernia repair surgery?

If you have had hernia repair surgery in the recent past, particularly if laparoscopic surgery was the means of repair, and then experience bowel obstruction, seek legal counsel only after you have been medically treated. Be aware that not all cases of bowel obstruction or blockage caused by complications of hernia repair surgery entitle patients to file a claim for compensatory damages. Personal injury attorneys well-versed and experienced in medical malpractice will be able to review the facts and circumstances of your case. If there is a reason to believe that the bowel obstruction -- and any other injuries -- were caused by the negligence of a medical professional or by a defect in a medical product, the attorney will advise you of the same and outline options available to you.

If you have questions and are interested in filing a hernia mesh lawsuit, contact Shouse Law Group today. We have local offices throughout California and Nevada, but represent clients throughout the U.S. in hernia mesh lawsuits.


  1. Edward L. Felix, MD, FACS. Prevention & Management. Laparoscopic Hernia Repair.
  2. Ferrone, R., Scarone, P.C., Natalini, G. Late complication of open inguinal hernia repair: small bowel obstruction caused by intraperitoneal mesh migration. Hernia. 2003 Sep;7(3):161-2. Epub 2003 Apr 24.
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Bowel Obstruction. October 2014.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Intestinal obstruction.

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