On the heels of a recent report that people in Australia harmed by hernia mesh have been largely ignored by the government, law firms, and certainly the medical community at large, a leading groin surgeon in Sydney has called for a nationwide ban of the medical device.
An Australian news website, 9News.com.au, profiled Dr John Garvey, who specialises in mesh-free hernia repairs. Dr. Garvey said the medical profession is too reliant on using mesh to fix hernias. And as a result, “the potentially devastating side effects were being underestimated.”
Although the 9News categorizes hernia mesh as a low-risk medical device for hernia repairs, the article does acknowledge that in recent years, the number of women’s lives destroyed by pelvic mesh has come to light.
Pelvic mesh injuries resulted in a scathing 2018 Senate inquiry and a massive class action lawsuit against medical giant Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Garvey believes that the focus on pelvic mesh lawsuits has led to further questions about inguinal (groin) mesh injuries.
Dr. Garvey told 9News, “People were getting all sorts of strange symptoms but it only just clicked after the pelvic mesh situation came to light that they could be related to inguinal mesh.” 9News reports that the most common complication Dr. Garvey witnessed in patients damaged by hernia mesh is chronic groin pain due to nerve damage; some patients experienced autoimmune conditions.
In addition to repairing hernias sans mesh, Dr. Garvey also has extensive experience surgically removing mesh. He told 9News, “I have seen lives turned upside down and destroyed” because of [mesh]. Not only do sufferers of hernia mesh complications experience physical damage, they also endure financial hardship, Dr. Garvey said.
Although some people may argue that hernia surgery has become less cumbersome and physically taxing for patients, Dr. Garvey suggests that before the invention of mesh, hernia procedures were fairly standard, simple procedures, able to be performed under local anesthesia.
“Now it’s turned into this major catastrophe,” Garvey told 9News.
Dr. Garvey added that patients should be given the option of a mesh-free repair and warned about the potential complications of mesh. But that doesn’t seem to go far enough for him. Ultimately, he said, there should be a complete ban on hernia mesh products, unless in exceptional cases where mesh-free repair is impossible.
Still, Dr. Garvey acknowledges that his viewpoint represents a tiny minority of surgeons. But in a way, Dr. Garvey pins the blame on hernia mesh complications on the surgeons themselves. He believes many surgeons haven’t been properly trained in doing hernia surgical repairs without mesh, which simply involve the use of only sutures.
“I think perhaps surgeons have lost the skills to do non-mesh repairs,” Dr. Garvey told 9News.
To date, there have been more than 50,000 hernia mesh lawsuits that have been settled in the U.S. The settlements that manufacturers have thus far paid out are worth in excess of $1 billion (U.S.). In comparison, in Australia, law firms have yet to take on a class action lawsuit, a point of consternation for hernia mesh sufferers on the continent.
Since 2006, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Association has reported over 900 adverse events for all hernia devices.