You’ve seen the commercials and heard the negative news about surgical mesh – and you’re probably wondering if it’s safe. You’re not alone. Many people who need hernia repair have this concern. Dr. Robert Jean, general surgeon at University Surgical Associates, shares how he talks with patients about this often-misunderstood approach to hernia repair.

“Due in part to the pervasiveness of TV commercials that have warned of the dangers associated with surgical mesh, nearly every patient I see is hesitant to use this approach,” says Dr. Jean. “But using surgical mesh in hernia repair is the highest standard of care. It’s used as a reinforcement to provide strength to the repair and has been shown to produce better long-term results and decrease the risk of the hernia returning.”


There have been a number of law suits about the misuse of surgical mesh and the complications that can occur when it’s used improperly. The major complications include severe pain, serious infections around the mesh, mesh adherence to internal organs (called erosion), and bowel obstruction. But thanks to improved surgical techniques and product design, these risks are steadily decreasing.

“Any product that’s placed inside the body has associated risks, but the benefits greatly outweigh those risks in most situations. In recent years, surgical mesh manufacturers have taken flawed products off the market and developed different materials or coatings designed to prevent erosion,” explains Dr. Jean. “Surgeons are also implementing different surgical approaches and keeping mesh away from a patient’s intestines and bladder, further reducing the risk of complications.”

For patients who have a predisposition to infection, there are a few types of mesh that offer a higher degree of infection resistance. Your surgeon should talk with you about whether these products are necessary for your individual medical condition. Although increasingly rare, effectively treating most infections can be as simple as using antibiotics or drains. Only in the most severe cases is corrective surgery required.


If you’re living with the discomfort, pain and heaviness in your abdomen that often goes along with a hernia, safe and effective treatment is available.  The board certified and highly trained surgeons at USA use minimally invasive techniques – including robotic surgery – to treat hernias of all sizes. For people with a large hernia, surgical mesh offers the best long-term outcome and the lowest risk of recurrence. Dr. Jean recommends against surgery for patients who are uncomfortable using surgical mesh to repair their hernia because of the substantially lower chance for success without it.

He also emphasizes that even if you aren’t sure you need surgery to repair a hernia, a consultation with a surgeon can be beneficial. “I don’t want to convince anyone they should have surgery if they don’t want it, but I do want people to know when surgery might be required,” says Dr. Jean. “If you have a severe onset of pain, nausea and vomiting or if the hernia’s size increases quickly, these could be reasons for an emergent hernia repair and you should go to the ER immediately.”

Learn more about the services available at University Surgical Associates by visiting To schedule an appointment with one of USA’s general surgeons, call (423) 267-0466.

USA General Surgery Staff

University Surgical Associates provides general surgical care in the Chattanooga region for patients with hernias and breast disease, as well as a wide range of surgical services relating to the abdomen, including surgery of the gallbladder, stomach and colon.

Coleman Arnold, MD, FACS
Donald Barker, MD, FACS
R. Phillip Burns, MD, FACS
W. Todd Cockerham, MD, FACS
Benjamin Dart IV, MD, FACS
Jacob Dowden, MD, FACS
W. Heath Giles, MD, FACS
John Huggins, MD, FACS
Darren Hunt, MD, FACS
Robert Jean, MD, FACS
Benjamin Kellogg, MD, FACS
Robert Maxwell, MD, FACS
Vicente Mejia, MD, FACS
S. Michael Roe, MD, FACS
Philip Smith, MD, FACS
Craig Swafford, MD, FACS