Doctors use hernia meshes to repair weak muscle walls, but poorly designed meshes can lead to serious infections that put patients at risk. The Ethicon Physiomesh, one popular hernia mesh product manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, has an unusually high infection rate and, therefore, poses a significant risk to the public. Injured patients have already filed over 30,000 lawsuits, claiming Johnson & Johnson’s mesh has caused them serious harm—everything from organ perforation to nerve damage.
What dangers do mesh implants pose? How do you know if you may be suffering from a hernia mesh infection? When should you seek emergency medical treatment? What recourse do you have against medical manufacturers who put your health in danger? Keep reading to learn more about hernia mesh infections.
A hernia occurs when organs or fatty tissues bulge through a weak spot in your muscles or connective tissues. They can occur in many different parts of the body, but they often affect the abdominal, groin, and thigh areas. Hernias rarely cause symptoms until dangerous complications, such a strangulation, develop. Once they do, a person may experience anything from pain and discomfort to fever, nausea, and vomiting. Since a lack of blood supply can be fatal, patients often need emergency surgery in order to recover.
Hernias never heal on their own. While doctors sometimes take a wait-and-see approach in mild cases, the only way to repair hernias is to undergo corrective surgery. Options include both open and laparoscopic (minimally invasive) procedures, depending on the health of the patient and the nature of the hernia. During a hernia repair surgery, doctors push the bulging tissue back into place and then place a mesh patch over the weak muscle wall in order to support to the area and prevent organs or fatty tissues from protruding.
Surgeons use hernia meshes to repair weak muscle walls so that organs and other tissues stay in their proper place. Over the past few years, hernia meshes have become the standard treatment method, largely because of their effectiveness and the ease with which they can be implanted. Most manufacturers construct their mesh out of synthetic materials in order to provide additional support. Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Physiomesh Composite Mesh, for example, is made primarily of polypropylene, although it also contains other synthetic compounds.
Like all surgeries, hernia repair procedures pose risks to patients. Many of the complications relate to the mesh patches that doctors use to reinforce weak muscles. Whenever you introduce a foreign object into the human body, infections become a real possibility. According to research, anywhere from between one to eight percent of people will end up suffering with a post-surgical infection.
When it comes to hernia repair surgeries that involve mesh implants, staph infections lead the list of possible risks. In some cases, complications can pose a life-threatening danger to unsuspecting patients.
Medical professionals have noticed a significant rise in the variety of complications arising from mesh implants. A number of factors—the type of mesh, the type of surgical procedure, the experience of the surgeon—can affect the likelihood of developing a problem.
Poorly designed mesh implants like Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Physiomesh remain one of the leading causes of post-surgical complications. Used for both groin and abdominal hernia repair, the mesh has shown a higher-than-average failure rate—a fact that has led the manufacturer to remove the product from the market.
Depending on the nature of the mesh failure, a patient may experience any of the following symptoms:
Patients and their doctors should always take hernia mesh pain seriously, particularly if it continues or flares up long after the expected recovery period. When accompanied by other symptoms, such as the presence of a fever after hernia mesh surgery, it may indicate a medical emergency. It’s important to understand that an infection may arise weeks, months, or even years after surgery. While that makes a quick and accurate diagnosis more difficult, education remains the best prevention strategy.
Faced with a mesh implant infection, doctors usually resort to antibiotics as a first line of defense. Initial treatment may also include local wound care. If a chronic infection develops, doctors may need to perform another surgery in order to remove the hernia mesh, drain any abscesses, and clean scar tissue from the affected area. Unfortunately, patients who require one or more additional operations face the prospect of further complications, as well as post-surgical pain.
Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Physiomesh is one of many hernia mesh products on the market. Unfortunately, repeated tests have revealed serious flaws in the design and manufacture of the product. Two European studies, in particular, pointed to unacceptable rates of hernia recurrence and revision surgeries.
The subsequent medical record shows a similar rate of failure. Thousands of patients who received the company’s hernia mesh implant suffered adverse effects from the product, in many cases requiring hernia mesh removal. According to a number of lawsuits, the type of plastic used in the Physiomesh implant reacts with the human tissues, leading to pain and infection. In addition, pieces of mesh can migrate to other parts of the body and, in some cases, cause damage by cutting tissue.
Given Physiomesh’s poor showing in medical trials, Ethicon, the division of Johnson & Johnson that manufactured the product, has taken the unusual step of issuing a “Market Withdrawal.” The recall comes in spite of the profitability of the product—a clear sign that Johnson & Johnson is fully aware of the danger posed by its poorly designed hernia mesh.
That being said, the company’s attempt to blame “operative and patient factors,” in addition to “possible product characteristics,” is a clear abdication of responsibility and shows an unwillingness to take full responsibility for the product failure. Although patient health does impact post-surgical outcomes, Physiomesh’s less-than-stellar safety record is the primary cause behind the high rates of infection.
Ethicon’s flawed product has caused pain and suffering to thousands of patients across the country. They’ve responded by exercising their legal rights and filing lawsuits against the medical manufacturer in the hopes of receiving compensation for their mounting medical bills, lost wages, reduced quality of life, and pain and suffering.
At Saunders & Walker P.A., we’re doing our part to help those who have suffered as a result of Physiomesh’s flaws and Ethicon’s failures to conduct the proper research before putting their product on the market. As a leading product liability law firm, we have years of experience bringing major lawsuits against irresponsible medical manufacturers.
If you’ve been injured by Johnson & Johnson’s hernia mesh product, ask Joseph H. Saunders what you can do about it by scheduling a free consultation.