Infection is a common consequence of most kinds of surgery. But when infection is caused by a defective device, like mesh for hernia repair surgery, it is not something to be expected, and you may be eligible to claim compensatory damages.
At Shouse Law Group, we want our clients to be informed. We answer some of your most common questions about infection and hernia repair surgery. If you think you may have been injured by a defective medical product, contact our office today.
- 1. What are the signs of infection after hernia repair surgery?
- 2. What are the signs of infection specific to mesh implants?
- 3. Are there some patients who are more likely to experience mesh-related infection than other patients?
- 4. What are mesh infection complications?
- 5. How is infection diagnosed and treated?
- 6. Are there any mesh products more prone to infection?
- 7. When should I contact a personal injury lawyer?
There are more than 1 million hernia repair operations each year in the U.S. alone. 1 Infection -- like any surgery -- is a complication for which to be on the lookout. The general signs are
- Pain at the site of the site
- Hot incision/wound area
- Swelling or hardening at the site
These signs are common to any type of infection. Other signs of infection after surgery are also common but less known, like
- Urinary tract infections
- General malaise.
If you experience pain while urinating, develop a cough, have loose stools, or feel unusually tired after surgery, you should not take it lightly. Rather, you should see your doctor immediately about it.
Doctors today prefer to use mesh over sutures because both the rate of recurrence and the time to recover are less. Unfortunately, mesh carries with it the potential for additional complications, especially if the mesh was defective. A recent study identifies the rate of mesh-related infection occurring in 1% to 8% of all patients. 2 The incidence rate is between 7%-8% for open incisional hernia repair and 0.98%-2% for laparoscopic ventral and incisional hernia repair. Thus, your chances of infection increase if your hernia repair operation is open.
There are five specific signs to be mindful of after your hernia repair surgery with a mesh device.
- Inflammation. After surgery, the site of the area where the operation occurred is always going to feel a bit sore, but if that tenderness also becomes swollen and/or painful, it could mean the abdomen is inflamed. Many of these products use or used Polypropylene, a synthetic resin known to cause inflammation. It can lead to adhesion or chronic pain.
- Failure to heal. Hernia incision sites are generally not in the most convenient area, so paying attention to the way the incision site is healing is important. If the incision site fails to heal within due time, it may signal an infection. Failure to heal means the incision site appears pinkish, is tender, and may be accompanied by seromas.
- Pain, particularly in the groin. If you have had an inguinal or femoral hernia repair, pay special attention to the incision site. If it becomes painful to walk or conduct day-to-day activities, then there's likely an infection related to the implant. Infections in this area can cause scar tissue and nerve damage.
- Flu symptoms. If your body is fighting an infection, you may experience traditional flu symptoms, like body aches, chills, nausea, fever, vomited. If you experience these symptoms after hernia repair surgery with mesh, then it could be a medical device-related infection. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.
- Dental issues. Your teeth are linked to your body's health. Severe dental issues have been recorded as a result of mesh-related infection. If your teeth feel weak or are infected, chipped, falling out, or overall painful after your surgery, see your doctor immediately.
3. Are there some patients who are more likely to experience mesh-related infection than other patients?
There are always some risk factors for any surgery and the overall outcome of that surgery. In cases of hernia repair with mesh, you could be more likely to suffer from infection if you suffer from
- Obesity. 3
If you have had or are intending to have hernia repair surgery and also have one or more of these conditions, then you will want to pay special attention to your body. If there are any signs of infection, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Infection is not your only worry. Mesh-related infections carry with it its own potential set of complications. If untreated or not treated in due time, infection can be the cause of
- Delayed healing
- Implant rejection or migration
- Hernia recurrence
- Organ damage
- Abdominal abscess
- Intestinal fistula
Even if treated in due time, problems can still arise. You could suffer from chronic pain or may be required to have additional surgery to remove the mesh, which poses its own additional risks. If you have to have the mesh removed, then in the end, you may be subjected to multiple surgeries: (1) surgery to remove the infected mesh; (2) surgery to treat the infection; and (3) surgery to implant a new patch or plug. In the most serious cases, an infection can destroy the surrounding tissue and induce large hernias. If the tissue is destroyed, it may be difficult to provide a permanent solution to your hernia problem.
If you show signs of any of the above symptoms -- no matter how small you think it may be -- always go to your doctor for a check-up. These symptoms should be taken seriously by your doctor, who should also consider mesh-related infection as the cause of your symptoms. Imaging, like ultrasound and/or computerized tomography, can help your physician determine if the mesh is indeed infected.
If it is determined that the mesh is infected, medical and surgical treatment may be necessary. The combination of the two would include antibiotic treatment, intravenous antimicrobial agents, and/or surgery to remove the mesh.
Of particular importance is the prevalence of methicillin-resistant bacteria, or MRSA. A study concluded that 63% of patients with mesh-related infections are infected with MRSA. 4 Unlike staphylococcal bacteria, MRSA is extremely difficult to treat.
Physiomesh and Atrium C-QUR mesh are two brands that have lawsuits filed against their manufacturers specifically due to mesh-related infections.
In Matthew Huff v. Ethicon Inc., the plaintiff had hernia repair surgery. 5 The Ethicon PhysiomeshⓇ Flexible Composite Mesh was used. Two years after the surgery, the plaintiff “began experiencing severe pain in his abdomen, along with fever, nausea, chills, and redness which developed on the skin of his abdomen.” 6 The plaintiff was hospitalized, whereupon infection around the mesh was discovered. 7
In Theresa Callaway v. Atrium Medical Corporation, the plaintiff also had hernia repair surgery. 8 Here, a 20 x 15 piece of C-Qur Edge mesh was used to repair a ventral hernia. 9 One month after surgery, the plaintiff was in serious pain with abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. 10 She went to the emergency room and then was released.11 For two weeks the pain, vomiting, and nausea continued. 12 She went back to the hospital, at which time “a 10 x 15 C-Qur Edge mesh was implanted for recurrent ventral hernia.” 13 Nearly 5 years later, the pain continued, but this time, in addition to the abdominal pain, persistent nausea, and vomiting, she was experiencing headaches and hip pain. 14 She was found to be in severe septic shock with acute renal failure and hypotension. 15 It was found she had an active, serious MRSA infection related to the mesh. 16
These are just two examples of mesh-related infection and how serious it can get and how it can occur either directly after surgery or years later.
As noted, more than a million hernia repair operations are completed each year in the U.S. alone. Most of these options use mesh products. Regardless if you experience symptoms directly after or years after the surgery, always contact your physician for a complete checkup. If it is found that your mesh caused your infection, you may be eligible to file a claim against the manufacturer.
Contact our personal injury lawyers at Shouse Law Group today. We represent clients throughout the United States who have suffered injuries from defective mesh products.
- FDA. Hernia Surgical Mesh Implants. Last Updated: 02/02/2018.
- Falagas, M.E., and Kasiakou, S.K. Mesh-related infections after hernia repair surgery. Clinical Microbiology and Infection. November 29, 2004.
- Cobb, W.S., Harris, J.B., Lokey, J.S., McGill, E.S., Klove, K.L. Incisional herniorrhaphy with intraperitoneal composite mesh: a report of 95 cases. Am Surg. 2003 Sep;69(9):784-7.
- In RE: Matthew Huff v. Ethicon Inc, at 2. Case No. 3:16-cv-00368. Document 1. Filed 04/01/16.
- In RE: Theresa Callaway v. Atrium Medical Corporation. Case No. 1:16-cv-04068. Document 1. Filed 10/31/16.
- Id. at 23 ❡ 77.
- Id. at 24 ❡ 79.
- Id. at 24 ❡ 80-81.
- Id. at 24 ❡ 81.
- Id. at 25 ❡ 86.
- Id. at 26 ❡ 88.