More patients who have undergone hernia operations are coming forward with stories of painful post-surgery complications they say have been caused by hernia-mesh products.
They have spoken out as the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) said General Surgeons Australia was investigating the feasibility of establishing a mesh audit.
According to RACS, nearly 100,000 Australians are hospitalised for hernia each year.
Last month Australian surgeons told the ABC that complications were rare for hernia-mesh surgery, usually about 5 per cent of patients.
But in the United States where there are 54,000 hernia-mesh lawsuits pending, a surgeon who has developed mesh-free hernia surgery has rejected claims made in Australia that the mesh is safe.
RACS has previously outlined concerns in a submission to a Therapeutic Goods Administration’s consultation on surgical mesh.
More than a dozen people from across Australia have now contacted the ABC to share post-surgery outcomes they say have left them in agony and depressed.
They are mainly men who have said they wanted to share their stories to give comfort to others who have been affected.
Suffering from immense pain
John Coady said he had a hernia-repair surgery 16 years prior to another surgery in 2010.
He said the prior surgery had no complications until the mesh had a blowout when he was at work in early 2010.
Mr Coady said the following surgery was a disaster.
“Before the surgery I was happy, worked six days a well and was always busy” Mr Coady said.
“Now I am on morphine and just sit around in pain.”
Mr Coady said his problems started straight after his operation.
“It was like I’d been punched in the genitals. They were just black and just swollen beyond recognition.”
He said his surgeon sought to reassure him when he asked if there was anything wrong.
“As the weeks turned into months, I was still suffering from immense pain and suffering,” he said.
“I was still seeing the surgeon nearly six months later, at least once a week.
“Finally, after about six months the surgeon told me that there was nothing wrong with me and then he said ‘I’ve done my job’ and to go away.
“I think there are more men out there suffering from the same situation and are suffering in silence.”
Botched mesh operation blamed for years of hell
Another man, Dominic, said his 2013 hernia-mesh operation had left him with complications.
“Since then I have had nothing but problems with my bladder,” Dominic said.
“Also the surgeon installed eight internal stitches and eight external stitches for the biggest mesh he could find, because the hernia hole was up to 20mm in size.
“When my stomach size decreases, I get acute pain so I can’t even lose any weight.”
Another man, George, shared similar concerns.
“About two years after my the operation the mesh got tangled with my bowel,” George said.
“A bowel surgeon operated and fixed the problem, but had to remove all the mesh that was in my stomach since then hernias kept popping out.
“Three more operations later, I have a big stomach that I am not happy with.”
Phil said he too had suffered ongoing problems.
“A number of years ago I had a hernia repaired with mesh and I have had pain in my right leg ever since,” Phil said.
“The pain has slowly eased with time but it is still an annoying continuous pain down my right leg.
“In the beginning the pain was quite serious and barely able to be tolerated.”
In August, Australian surgeons told the ABC that complications were rare for hernia-mesh surgery.
Board in General Surgery national chairwoman Kellee Slater said the mesh was the best form of hernia repair and complications with the mesh were in the order of five per cent.
“Mesh has been used for more than 20 years and the risk rate remains “reasonably constant and low,” Dr Slater said.
Dr Slater was responding after several patients blamed mesh operation complications for excruciating bowel blockages that left them vomiting faeces.
US hernia expert wants Australian doctors to rethink the use of mesh
In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said as of February there were more than 54,000 hernia-mesh lawsuit cases pending in state and federal courts.
Lawyers alleged the products had a faulty design and caused internal injuries and other complications.
US surgeon Doctor Mohan Desarda has developed a mesh-free hernia surgery which he said had been embraced by clinicians around the world.
The doctor has told the ABC that he rejected claims by Australian doctors that the mesh was safe.
“It is established fact that more than 10 to 15 per cent (hernia-mesh patients) suffer with pain, two to five per cent with recurrence, less than one per cent with infection and one to two per cent with other complications,” Dr Desarda said.
“I wish to state that mesh should be used for hernia repair as a last resort only, after pure tissue repair fails or is not possible to do.”
American Bob Wolf told the ABC he had a mesh-free hernia operation in Las Vegas three years ago and could not be happier.
“I’ve referred several of my friends to the same doctor in Vegas.
“I also personally spoke to several suffering friends, just before I decided on no-mesh repair.”
AMA backs audit
Dr Richard Kidd, chairman of the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Council of General Practice has responded to calls for an audit of hernia mesh patients.
“I actually don’t know the numbers that are coming forward but I think that if you know there are a significant number, an audit would be warranted.
“We want to be as sure as we can be that what we are doing is safe and that product that we are using is safe,” Dr Kidd said.