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While getting a correct sports hernia diagnosis can be difficult, sports hernia repair surgery is more straightforward. There are two types of procedures: traditional open surgery and mesh repair. Using mesh to repair sports hernias is a newer approach that claims to give an advantage over traditional repair methods. Claims is the operative word there.
Before settling on one solution, it’s critical to speak with your sports hernia specialist. Rest and physical therapy, the most common treatments, are not complicated. Sometimes though, surgery is needed to fully repair the muscle tear. Surgery can effectively treat a sports hernia, but it’s important to choose the right approach of the two available.
Mesh repair surgery has grown in popularity in recent years, but popularity doesn’t always translate to results. Surgical mesh is medical-grade material designed for surgical use. While mesh can increase the strength of the repair, it can come with serious long-term complications.
Mesh can bind to nearby nerve endings, causing chronic and lasting pain. It can also restrict the blood flow of the vessels and thereby cause ischemia of the vas defrens or even the testicle. The mesh itself can also become stiff from fibrosis, damaging the surrounding area even further.
The complications of using mesh in sports hernia repair can cause major issues with pain later. In fact, mesh is associated with a 6-8% risk of significant chronic pain. That risk shouldn’t be taken lightly, as that pain can stop an athlete from participating in sports entirely. The various possible complications can even require a second operation to solve. For an athlete, the added time and cost spent recovering from a second surgery is something most want to avoid.
Mesh repair has become such a problem for patients that entire volumes of research have been dedicated to it. The recently released SAGES Manual of Groin Pain (Springer 2016) delves deeper into the debate over mesh repair. The book details the many risks associated with using mesh in groin surgeries. It offers sobering statistics on the success rate of such surgeries, especially when compared to traditional repair methods.
Before any surgery, it’s important to do your research. While mesh repair can seem like an alternative with potential, the reality is much different. Some surgeons advocate using mesh in sports hernia repair surgery, but the complications are just too risky. Its use has been associated with permanent nerve damage, chronic pain and repeat surgeries. For these reasons, Dr. William Brown, sports hernia specialist, strongly advises against mesh repair surgery unless absolutely required.
After spending weeks finding a specialist and starting recovery, it can be tempting to see any surgery as a solution. But being informed about the risks of a procedure like mesh repair isn’t just your right – it’s your responsibility. Before having sports hernia repair surgery, have a discussion with your surgeon about the potential complications of the use of mesh.