Sexual Complications with Hernia Mesh

One in ten people will develop a hernia, according to BBC, and a common treatment is the hernia mesh which has been in use since the 1990s. A hernia is when an organ, intestine, or fatty tissues pushes through a hole in a muscle or connective tissue which are often in the abdominal wall. In the United States, approximately 350,000 hernia repair surgeries are performed every year.

Though there are various complications that may arise from failed hernia mesh, specfic sex-related complications for hernia meshes include:

  • Depression
  • Inability to walk
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Inability to move

For hernias, treatments include watchful waiting where the surgeon and patient both monitor the hernia to ensure that it won’t grow larger or cause more problems. However, if further complications arise, a surgery called laparoscopic surgery may occur which can be done with our without a mesh, or open repair which can also be done with or without a mesh. The mesh is said to improve patient outcomes and have a minimized recovery time. However, it’s clear that complications are accompanying the device.

The mesh is made of synthetic materials which can be knitted or non-knitted in sheet-like forms. Some research actually shows synthetic hernia mesh implants are more likely to fail. In many cases, for both the hernia and vaginal mesh, the device is absorbed into the tissue which is why removal is so difficult.

Sexual Complications with Vaginal Mesh

In the early 2000s, the transvaginal mesh procedure arrived in doctor’s offices for people seeking a treatment for pelvic organ prolapse, which is when your bladder, uterus, or rectum begins to descend from your vagina. This occurs from genetics, obesity, or vaginal delivery. Women of any age can be affected by this. The mesh helps provide extra support to damaged or weakened tissue. Synthetic materials or animal tissue are what make up the actual mesh device.

Tirsit S. Asfaw, M.D., director of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College told Women's Health that “the transvaginal mesh wasn’t appropriately tested for long-term outcomes,” and therefore, patients are experiencing consequences.

Side effects of the transvaginal mesh include:

Recently, and especially since the Bleeding Edge documentary, patients are coming forward with lawsuits saying that the mesh is high risk. There are options other than the transvaginal mesh if a patient is experiencing a prolapse. Surgery without the use of a mesh and the insertion of a pessary are other options. Moreover, kegels and strengthening the vaginal muscles, as well as diet and exercise are important.

In 2016, the FDA classified the mesh to moderate-risk to high-risk but doctor’s can still utilize the device for pelvic organ prolapses. Vaginal scarring and mesh erosion highly impacts the livelihood and quality of life for many patients.

In The Bleeding Edge documentary, Tammy Jackson’s partner says that the mesh cut his penis during intercourse because of the erosion of the device. When her doctor claimed that her issue was her mesh, he said he was only “trained to push the mesh in, not take it out.”

The medical device industry is devastating and the FDA is doing little to protect patients with complications. For those with the hernia mesh and the vaginal mesh, removal surgery is arduous and a failure many times.

According to The Bleeding Edge, “Each year in the United States, unparalleled innovations in medical diagnostics, treatment, and technology hit the market. But when the same devices designed to save patients end up harming them, who is accountable?”

Considering getting hernia mesh or vaginal mesh?

Here are questions to ask before getting mesh surgery.