A California surgeon no longer uses polypropylene mesh implants to perform hernia repair, and is now one of the few doctors in the nation to offer pure tissue repair surgeries.
“I came to the conclusion that this was stupid,” Dr. William Brown recently told KVUE in Austin, Texas. “Why would I go from something that was working perfectly well to something that had all these complications to it? So, I went back very quickly to doing pure tissue repair for hernias and I’ve been doing that ever since.”
Polypropylene hernia mesh has become increasingly common in recent years.
“It was pushed very hard by all the manufacturers because the profits are so high,” Brown noted. “A piece of mesh would cost maybe a dollar to make and they would charge thousands of dollars to do this.”
While he acknowledged that mesh-based hernia repair takes less time to perform, Brown noticed that many of his patients were returning within a year because of chronic pain, stiffness, and other problems that ultimately resulted in the need for revision surgery.
Most doctors won’t discuss hernia mesh complications because they consider it the standard of care, and some won’t perform revisions when mesh causes problems.. As a result, suffering patients often ask Brown to remove hernia mesh other surgeons have implanted.
“I’m hoping your interview here and your pushing more information out there will help the government see that this is a major problem and hopefully get legislation together to help protect the patients,” Dr. Brown to KVUE.
There are currently well over 10,000 hernia mesh lawsuits pending in courts nationwide, mostly over multi-layer polypropylene implants manufactured by Ethicon, Inc., C.R. Bard, Inc., and Atrium Medical Corp.
Plaintiffs pursing these cases claim that polypropylene is biologically incompatible with human tissue and can trigger an inflammatory reaction that ultimately leads to hernia mesh failure, abscesses and scarring, organ damage, bowel obstructions, the need for revision surgery, and permanent disability.
Unfortunately, the long-term effects of polypropylene on the human body aren’t well understood. Because there’s no publicly-available information on the catalysts used in its production, even less is known about how the manufacturing process might impact those effects.
It doesn’t help that most of the polypropylene hernia mesh implants available in the United States were cleared through the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s 510(k) program. That program allows devices to come to market without human clinical trials, as long as a manufacturer prove the new product is substantially equivalent to a device previously cleared through the agency’s stringent pre-market approval program.