The Common Procedure That Has Many Australians Suffering In Silence

Around 100,000 Australians are hospitalised every year for hernias and hernia repair

What you need to know
  • Synthetic mesh is commonly used in hernia repair procedures
  • Though complications are rare, they can be severe

Hernia repair is a very common surgery, but it often involves the use of a type of mesh that has been banned for other procedures.

Hernias are a bulge that occurs when an internal organ pushes through the surrounding muscle and tissue, usually in the groin, stomach or belly button. Though complications are rare, affecting less than 5% of patients, they can be quite devastating when they arise.

Marc went in for what he thought would be a routine procedure to correct his hernia. “Everything was positive,” he told The Project. He believed he’d be going into surgery and “four weeks later, [he'd] be back at work like nothing’s happened.”

Marc taking medication

But now, 18 months after his operation, Marc finds himself unable to work or walk properly, and is constantly in debilitating pain. “I was on about 36 pills a day. Valiums were like lollies, to the point where my body was not recognising them."

"I am not the same person I was before this. I used to work hard, travel the world, love my surfing, love my road bikes. I’m pretty much locked away inside this house 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Marc believes that faulty mesh used in his operation is to blame, but told The Project that doctors have refused to help because it was too risky. This is not uncommon; many patients with similar complications are told they can’t have their mesh removed. There are a handful of surgeons in Australia who perform mesh removal, but they are very difficult to find, so patients are often referred to the US. However, this option is often not within the financial means of patients.

Synthetic surgical meshes have been used for decades to repair hernias. Many products are made of polypropylene; the same material used in some transvaginal mesh products that have recently been banned by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Though the TGA still says that using the mesh is safe medical practice to repair hernias, it also told The Project that from December “…all hernia mesh products will undergo review… and all new surgical mesh devices will need to meet higher evidentiary requirements.”

Marc is now considering legal action and is pushing for a class action. “It still wouldn’t be enough because I will still not have my life back…[but] we need to be heard, as simple as that.”

Marc walking outside