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HealthInfo Canterbury

Mesh hernia repair

Mesh is a loosely woven sheet, typically made of a sterile, woven plastic-like material such as polypropylene. Surgeons use it to provide support for tissues or organs after the surgery.

In a hernia repair mesh helps to keep the tissues and organs of your abdomen (tummy) within your abdomen – in other words, to fix the hernia and stop it from coming back.

There are several types of mesh and it is used for several different operations, including some women's health operations such as vaginal repairs for prolapse.

There have been stories in the media about possible side effects of prolapse repairs using mesh. Unfortunately, some stories have implied this happens in all mesh surgery. This has caused anxiety for some people who are having or have had other surgery using mesh, such as hernia repair.

Surgical experts around the world have looked carefully at hernia repairs and report that using a mesh is the best way to repair hernias. Without using a mesh, it is difficult, or impossible, to repair some hernias.

We also wouldn't be able to do keyhole (laparoscopic) hernia repairs without mesh. That would mean all hernia repairs would need a bigger operation (open hernia repair) and leave a bigger scar. Yet keyhole surgery has fewer complications than open surgery. Also, there is a higher chance of the hernia coming back again after surgery if we don't use mesh.

Using mesh to repair hernias is safe.

A minority of people (less than 10%) get chronic pain after hernia surgery. People who have mesh hernia repairs are less likely to experience this than people who have repairs without mesh.

Infection in the mesh after hernia surgery is rare – it happens in less than 1% of cases – and is even lower after keyhole surgery.

On the next page: At home after a hernia repair

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed January 2019.


Page reference: 138549

Review key: HIHER-19885