While hernia repair procedures are fairly routine and surgical mesh is used effectively in the majority of cases, there are some instances in which complications can lead to death.
In fatal cases, the cause could be:
- Bowel or intestinal obstruction
- Organ perforation
- Internal bleeding
A combination of these factors may cause some hernia mesh deaths. However, if the procedure or the mesh itself caused the wrongful death, a loved one of the victim may be eligible for compensation through legal action.
What Surgical Mesh Should Do
A hernia is caused by weakness in muscles or connective tissue around an organ or other body part. Those muscles or connective tissue are supposed to keep everything in place, and when they fail, an organ, fatty tissue, or other body part in the area can move or protrude, causing pain and limiting movement.
When a hernia is repaired by surgery, mesh is used to strengthen and support that area while it heals. Mesh can be synthetic or made from animal tissue and can be absorbed by the body over time or remain permanent, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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Sometimes, hernia mesh complications lead to a blockage in the intestines, called an obstruction. This can be caused by:
- Mesh migration: Movement from where the mesh was originally implanted, obstructing the bowels
- Surgical errors: Improper implantation of the mesh leading to a blockage
- Adhesions: Scar-like tissue that causes the intestine to attach to itself or other tissue
Some obstructions become so severe that blood flow is cut off from the intestines. According to Mayo Clinic, the consequence of this could be tissue death (when the wall of the intestine dies due to lack of blood). This tissue death can then cause further, life-threatening complications, including perforation and infection.
One specific infection brought on by intestinal blockage is peritonitis. This occurs when the abdominal membrane, the peritoneum, becomes inflamed. This infection can quickly become life-threatening without treatment and requires prompt medical attention. Symptoms include abdominal pain and bloating, fever, nausea, and digestive problems.
When hernia mesh is improperly implanted or migrates, it can cause a perforation, a tear, or hole in an organ or tissue. The affected area will depend on where the hernia was located but could include:
- Abdominal wall
- Blood vessels
Perforation can lead to peritonitis, as mentioned above, as well as other infections and internal bleeding. After all, it is caused when the hernia mesh is not where it is supposed to be.
Bowel Perforation and Sepsis
A perforated bowel—holes in the small or large intestine or colon—can be especially dangerous, as they can spill waste into other areas of the body. The greatest consequence is death due to sepsis. Sepsis is caused by an existing infection that then leads to a “chain reaction,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Left untreated, sepsis can damage tissue, cause organ failure, and claim a life.
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Peritonitis is not the only infection that may accompany a hernia repair surgery. In fact, a 2010 study from The Journal of Laparoendoscopic & Advanced Surgical Techniques pointed to infection as “one of the most challenging complications of this operation.” The hernia mesh itself can become infected during these procedures, requiring another surgery to remove the infected mesh and reconstruct a patient’s abdominal wall, “with variable success rates.”
Hospitals and healthcare facilities are particularly prone to staph infections, with CDC reporting almost 20,000 deaths in 2017 caused by them. Specific risk factors include:
- Undergoing surgery
- Staying in a healthcare facility
- Implanting a medical device in the body
You undoubtedly recognize that all of those are part of a hernia mesh operation. If a staph infection is not treated in time or is resistant to treatment, sepsis and death can result.
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Infections, perforations, or obstructions that are not detected in time or cause additional complications—such as tissue death or widespread sepsis—can, unfortunately, cost the life of a hernia mesh patient. If you lost a loved one from infected mesh or a connected complication, you could make a wrongful death claim, especially if the death was caused by:
- Negligence by healthcare workers
- Failure to detect the problem
- Mesh defects
- Unsterile equipment or conditions
Contact a legal professional if you suspect your loss was caused by one of these factors.
Your Loss Matters to Us
At Loncar Lyon Jenkins, we understand the shock and disbelief that accompanies the loss of a loved one following what should have been a routine procedure. A family member could have passed from hernia mesh complications, but the true cause may have been product defects, surgical errors, or other negligence.
If that’s the case, you can pursue damages through a civil suit. Call in the Strong Arm today, and we can work by your side: (800) 777-7777.