An investigation recently conducted by the BBC is raising new concerns about the risks potentially associated with polypropylene hernia mesh implants, finding that as many as 170,000 patients in England could be struggling with serious complications due to failure of the devices.
The investigation, which aired last week on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire program, also faulted the country’s National Health Service (NHS) trusts for a lack of consistent policies regarding either treatment or follow-up.
Among other things, the broadcast revealed that some 570,000 English patients have undergone hernia repair with polypropylene mesh over the past 6 years. Between 12% and 30% of these patients have experienced serious complications, including pain so severe it’s left some reliant on wheelchairs.
Others have even become suicidal.
“Sometimes, I just want to scream. It’s maddening,” Jenn Coles, 34, said in an interview with the BBC.
Despite having undergone two surgeries to remove parts of a hernia mesh implant she received in 2017, Coles still struggles to perform certain tasks.
“[Before the mesh implant] I was so active – running around commuting, kayaking, and now I can’t pick up a sock from the floor,” she said.
Dr Ulrike Muschaweck, a leading private-sector surgeon in England, told the BBC that she had performed some 3,000 hernia mesh removal procedures on patients who had been experiencing chronic pain.
Dr. Muschaweck prefers to use the suture method for hernia repair. Sadly, fewer and fewer surgeons are trained in that procedure.
Despite growing concerns surrounding the use of polypropylene hernia mesh, England’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) maintains that there is not enough evidence to discontinue use of the devices.
Polypropylene hernia mesh implants have also been the subject of concern in the United States.
Ethicon, Inc., a division of Johnson & Johnson, is facing hundreds of hernia mesh lawsuits over its Physiomesh devices, the majority of which have been consolidated in a multidistrict litigation now underway in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia.
Ethicon withdrew certain Physiomesh Flexible Composite Mesh implants from the market in May 2016, after unpublished data from two European hernia registries suggested that the surgical patches were associated with higher average recurrence and revision rates compared to other meshes used in laparoscopic ventral hernia repair.
Ethicon has indicated that it will not be returning the devices to the market, as it was unable to determine the cause of these issues.
A second multidistrict litigation is underway in the U.S. District Court, District of New Hampshire for lawsuits involving Atrium Medical’s C-Qur hernia mesh implants, while a third was recently established in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, for lawsuits involving C.R. Bard’s polypropylene implants.