Hernia Mesh Lawsuits Help Patients Recover Compensation for Organ Damage, Bowel Obstructions, and Other Injuries

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Hernia surgical mesh implants are the subject of a rising number of lawsuits filed by patients who were injured after the devices failed. When a surgical mesh device breaks or slips out of position, it can puncture vital organs, leading to life-threatening internal bleeding that requires immediate corrective surgery. Other serious complications include bowel obstructions, blood poisoning, and adhesion.

Several companies manufacture hernia surgical mesh devices. The devices most commonly giving rise to injury lawsuits are:

  • The C-Qur hernia mesh manufactured by Atrium Medical Corp.
  • Composix Kugel Mesh hernia repair patches manufactured by Bard Davol.
  • Certain models of the PerFix Hernia Plug manufactured by Bard Davol.
  • The Physiomesh Flexible Composite Mesh manufactured by Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson.
  • The TIGR Matrix Surgical Mesh manufactured by Novus Scientific.

Lawsuits involving defective surgical mesh devices are usually filed after patients who had a hernia repaired with a surgical mesh implant suffered from complications, including:

  • adhesion
  • bowel obstructions
  • organ damage
  • infections
  • blood poisoning
  • autoimmune diseases
  • internal bleeding
  • intense pain

The devices listed above are most commonly involved in lawsuits, but other devices may also prove to be defective or to result in foreseeable complications that the manufacturer failed to disclose to patients.

Patients who experience ongoing pain after a hernia repair using a defective surgical mesh, patients who needed to have a hernia mesh implant removed, and patients who suffered complications due to a hernia mesh implant may be entitled to compensation. An injury attorney who handles product liability cases involving defective medical devices can evaluate a patient’s potential compensation claim.

Hernias and Their Causes

Hernias most often occur when a part of the body that should remain inside the abdomen begins to protrude through a weak spot or hole in the muscles and tissues that make up the abdominal wall. The most common hernia is called an inguinal hernia. It occurs when fatty tissues or intestines are pushed out of the abdomen and into the inguinal canal. Patients usually experience an inguinal hernia as a lump or swelling in the groin. Femoral hernias, which generally affect women, also occur in the groin.

Ventral hernias occur when the contents of the abdomen push through other parts of the abdominal wall. Patients who feel a lump in their stomach typically have a ventral hernia. Incisional hernias are ventral hernias that develop after abdominal surgery, such as caesarian sections and appendectomies. An incisional hernia is caused when structures inside the abdomen push through a surgical incision that has not completely healed.

Umbilical hernias develop near the belly button. They most often affect infants and may heal on their own by the time a child reaches age 3 to 4. Older children, or infants who are experiencing complications from an umbilical hernia usually need surgery.

Hiatal hernias occur when the upper part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm, a muscle wall that separates the stomach from the chest. Hiatal hernias usually affect people over the age of 50.

Hernias are caused when pressure inside the abdomen pushes the abdomen’s contents (usually intestines or fatty tissues) through openings or weaknesses in the abdominal muscles and connective tissues that are supposed to keep those contents enclosed. Pressure may be caused by intense coughing, persistent vomiting, constipation, pregnancy, heavy lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects, or other actions that place a strain on the structures inside the abdomen. Weak spots in the muscle wall may occur naturally, although abdominal surgery, weight gain, smoking, blows to the stomach, and the process of aging may also contribute to abdominal wall weakening.

Hernia Surgery

Hiatal hernias and umbilical hernias in infants will sometimes resolve without surgery. The only treatment that will repair most hernias, including inguinal and ventral hernias, is surgery.

While doctors might keep a watchful eye on a small hernia that causes no pain, most hernias eventually need to be surgically repaired to avoid complications. Without surgical repair, the part of the body that is pushing through the muscle wall might become strangulated, cutting off its blood supply. If intestines protrude through the abdominal wall, they might become blocked. Both of those complications are life-threatening events that typically require emergency surgery.

Surgical repairs of hernias may involve open or laparoscopic surgery. The contents of the abdomen are returned to their natural position and the opening in the muscle wall is closed. When the opening is small, the surgeon may close it by stitching the edges of healthy muscle tissue together. 

Surgical Mesh Hernia Repairs

Many surgeons reinforce the weakened muscle wall with a patch known as a surgical mesh implant. Surgeons are most likely to implant a mesh device when an opening in the muscle wall is large or when stitches would add undue stress to healthy muscles. Some surgeons elect to implant a mesh even when the weakened area is small.

Most hernia surgical mesh devices are made of synthetic materials, although some are made from animal fibers. They may consist of a solid sheet of material, or they may resemble a knitted or woven piece of fabric. Some are permanent while others are designed to be absorbed into the body after the opening in the abdominal wall has healed.

Hernia Surgical Mesh Complications

A recent study linked hernia surgical mesh implants to an increased risk of serious post-operative complications, including bowel obstruction, bowel perforation and other organ damage, adhesion, infection, and blood poisoning. Even patients who do not experience a life-threatening emergency following implantation of a hernia surgical mesh are more likely to experience severe abdominal pain than patients who had their hernias repaired with stitches alone.

Physicians are also raising concerns about the correlation between hernia surgical mesh implants and autoimmune diseases. An editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association questions whether the benefits of using a hernia surgical mesh might, in some cases, be outweighed by the risk that the implant will cause serious complications.

Hernia Surgical Mesh Lawsuits

Lawsuits have exposed the medical complications associated with certain hernia surgical mesh devices. For example, a Physiomesh Flexible Composite Mesh was used to repair an incisional hernia in a woman who subsequently experienced severe abdominal pain and bowel obstructions. The device came apart as a surgeon attempted to remove it, and parts of the mesh remained attached to her intestines and abdominal walls. The lawsuit is just one of many alleging that Ethicon’s design and construction of the surgical mesh device is defective.

A number of consolidated lawsuits against Atrium Medical Corp. allege that materials used to make the company’s C-Qur line of polypropylene surgical mesh devices cause inflammations that lead to complications. Devices have failed to remain fixed in their correct position, in some cases leading to adhesion (contents of the abdomen stick together) that can produce bowel obstructions and other life-threatening problems. The lawsuits allege that Atrium knew about the problem but failed to warn patients by disclosing the risk of using their device.

A lawsuit against Bard Davol, typical of other lawsuits against the company, alleges that a woman suffered incapacitating pain and multiple infections after a PerFix Hernia Plug was used to repair a hernia in her groin. The lawsuit alleges that the mesh device was improperly designed and insufficiently tested, and that patients were not warned about potential risks of injury. Other lawsuits against Bard Davol have raised similar issues concerning the company’s Composix Kugel Mesh hernia repair patches.

Compensation for Patients Injured by Defective Hernia Surgical Mesh Devices

Every surgery carries a degree of risk. When a defective surgical mesh fails, the patient is exposed to the risk, pain, expense, and inconvenience of a second surgery to remove the device.

Complications caused by a defective surgical mesh can pose even greater risks. Blood poisoning, perforated organs and tissues, adhesion, and bowel obstruction can all end in death. Even when a patient’s life is saved by emergency surgery, the patient suffers unnecessary pain and anxiety. Some complications result in a lasting disability.

Hospital visits often cause patients to lose income. Lawsuits against the manufacturers of defective hernia surgical mesh devices can result in verdicts and settlements that replace lost income while compensating patients for the injuries, diseases, and pain and suffering caused by the defective device or by the manufacturer’s failure to warn patients about the potential harm of using the device to repair a hernia.

Time limits for bringing product liability lawsuits may cause injured patients to lose valuable rights if they wait too long. Patients who have experienced complications or a second surgery after a hernia surgical mesh implant should obtain prompt advice from a lawyer who handles product liability lawsuits involving medical devices.

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