Pursuing My Passion Once Again

The Trouble with Hernia Mesh

It started out as a sports hernia which was misdiagnosed as prostatitis. A CT scan in ER eventually determined that I had two inguinal hernias and an umbilical incisional hernia (2.5-3cm). Despite my request the surgeon used a mesh on the left inguinal and the umbilical hernias as overlays with open surgery. Within 6 weeks both meshes partially tore off. Upon tearing, the inguinal mesh began to rub against the spermatic cord. This required convalescence with at most two 20 minute walks per day. The testicular pain would begin at 10 minutes into the walk and increase until it became unbearable at 20 minutes and would require laying flat on the back the rest of the day.

This went on for 3 months until I found a hernia specialist in Los Angeles. The new surgeon found that the umbilical hernia mesh had partially opened with the bowel protruding through the gap causing pain and indigestion. Both meshes were removed. The inguinal hernia was sewn up with open surgery. Even though I again requested no mesh she recommended a large 6 by 8 inch interlay mesh inserted laparoscopically for the umbilical hernia.

The results of the hernia mesh repair were catastrophic. Due to pain I could no longer sleep on either side or my stomach. I could only sleep on my back at night to avoid pain. I developed a pain around the right midsection from front to back that couldn’t be diagnosed with ultrasounds or CT scans. The indigestion situation got worse so that I had diarrhea every day after breakfast until noon. My stamina dropped in that I would start to sweat after doing activities of short duration. For example, I couldn’t play more than a couple of pieces on the piano before starting to sweat and feeling weak. I couldn’t walk more than 3 blocks without starting to sweat not could I drive for more than 30 minutes. I also had night sweats, particularly on more active days. I developed a tremor in my hand and could not sign a check and had trouble dialing a phone. My extremities and groin area kept changing from cold to hot. I had to lay on my back to keep my body from sweating or becoming cold. Due to insomnia I started to take sleeping pills. Without the pills I would fall asleep at 4am and sleep until just after sunrise. I also developed a low grade fever that appeared some evenings, 99.0-99.7. In addition to all this I developed several allergies. I would often sit at dinner and feel goosebumps on my shoulders and right arm. I would develop unexplained rashes which seemed to be reactions to polyester. I ended up replacing all my clothing with 100% cotton material.

I called the surgeon who suggested that I had intestinal infections. I went to Stanford where all blood tests proved negative. A colonoscopy and endoscopy were performed but nothing was found to explain the diarrhea and stomach pain. The Stanford doctors were convinced the mesh was not the cause of my issues. Their final diagnosis – chronic fatigue syndrome. By now I had accepted that I needed to move into a convalescent home for my remaining years (I’m 71). The thought was so depressing that I contemplated suicide. My doctors prescribed Cymbalta which did help my moods.

I called my hernia doctor repeatedly to the point where she told me to no longer send her any messages. The most she would offer was to remove the stitches and any connective tissue adhesions to the mesh. I was told that repairing that hernia was a major surgery that could end up worse than what I had. I started calling around the country and found a surgeon in Las Vegas that agreed to remove the mesh with open surgery.

Nine months after the 2nd hernia surgery the LA specialist agreed to do skin tests on mesh material. I tried to drive from SF to LA 3 separate times but the pain was too much to bear and I finally flew down with my son. The tests showed some positive reaction to polypropylene. The surgeon finally agreed to remove the mesh laparoscopically and suggested that no further repair be done. I was warned of a 60% chance of a recurrence.

During surgery it became clear what were the causes of all the symptoms. There were large abscesses all along the edges of the mesh and another large abscess ball in the area of the midsection that had started hurting soon after the implant. The pathology report stated that the cell tissue were consistent with an inflammatory reaction to a foreign body. Cultures showed no bacterial or fungal infection.

The relief was virtually immediate after leaving the hospital. The pain in the midsection left immediately. The sleepless nights were gone and I slowly started to regain my stamina. The night sweats continued to a degree but the low grade fevers were gone. I still had pain issues in the umbilical area but it was considerably less.

I came to Dr Brown who diagnosed a 1.5cm hernia where the mesh had been. We decided to do a non mesh repair so called my hernia doctor repeatedly to the point where she told me to no longer send her any messages. The most she would offer was to remove the stitches and any connective tissue adhesions to the mesh. I was told that repairing that hernia was a major surgery that could end up worse than what I had. I started calling around the country and found a surgeon in Las Vegas that agreed to remove the mesh with open surgery.

Nine months after the 2nd hernia surgery the LA specialist agreed to do skin tests on mesh material. I tried to drive from SF to LA 3 separate times but the pain was too much to bear and I finally flew down with my son. The tests showed some positive reaction to polypropylene. The surgeon finally agreed to remove the mesh laparoscopically and suggested that no further repair be done. I was warned of a 60% chance of a recurrence.

During surgery it became clear what were the causes of all the symptoms. There were large abscesses all along the edges of the mesh and another large abscess ball in the area of the midsection that had started hurting soon after the implant. The pathology report stated that the cell tissue were consistent with an inflammatory reaction to a foreign body. Cultures showed no bacterial or fungal infection.

The relief was virtually immediate after leaving the hospital. The pain in the midsection left immediately. The sleepless nights were gone and I slowly started to regain my stamina. The night sweats continued to a degree but the low grade fevers were gone. I still had pain issues in the umbilical area but it was considerably less.

I came to Dr Brown who diagnosed a 1.5cm hernia where the mesh had been. We decided to do a non mesh repair so that it wouldn’t enlarge. This was done 6 weeks ago and I have my life back. I can drive for hours now without pain. I still can’t walk long distances due to the pain from the original sports hernia but there is no longer any fatigue and sweating. I have normal bowel movements once again. The inflammation from the mesh placed on the bowels and organs had caused all sorts of digestion issues. Coming off the anti depression meds was difficult but now it’s over. After an incredible journey that I wouldn’t wish on anyone I have my life back (I convalesced a full 2 years). As a landscape photographer I can finally go back out in the field and pursue my passion once again, something I never expected to be able to do again.

Thank you Dr Brown.

William Brown, MD
Hernia Specialist

Dr. Brown has been repairing inguinal hernias for over 30 years, taking care of Athletes with Sports Hernia injuries since 1999.  Dr. Brown has been taking care of patients with complications from mesh for so long that his hair is gray. Luckily he still has some hair.

His patients include players from the San Jose Sharks and the San Jose Earthquakes as well as athletes from the NFL, AFL, NBA, and the local college teams. As well as Athletes from 15 foreign countries.

Location:
Fremont Office
William H. Brown, M.D.
39470 Paseo Padre Pkwy
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 793-2404
Fax: (510) 793-1320

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