While I usually try to keep my blogs mostly focused on interesting health and wellness topics of general interest, I am going to divert away from that in the next couple of blogs as I cover a personal experience I had gone through recently.
What is it, you may be asking? I have been living with a groin hernia (inguinal) for several months now. Not quite sure of the exact triggering mechanism but it may be any one or combination of the following: lifting heavy weight (luggage or water softener salt bags likely), exercise (a muscle pull in the wrong place or over-exertion), long-term violent and heavy sneezes and coughs (due to my allergies that still plague me season to season).
Whatever the reason, I ended up with a hernia on the right side groin area. After a local surgeon’s examination and confirmation, he recommended the mesh-based hernia repair procedure which he promised it can be done as an outpatient procedure. If you know me, you would have guessed that I wasn’t going to easily convinced to however a small procedure. First, I have never have been “under the knife” of any kind in my life and secondly, I need to find out was about what other possible options may exists on the market today.
In this blog I will go over briefly the key factors that helped me to choose the method I ended up doing and the facility that performed this procedure on me.
The first thing I learned was that the hernia procedures are common. In fact, over a million hernia repair surgeries are performed every year in the U.S. alone. 80% of them belong to the inguinal category (the one I was dealing with).
During my initial research, I read many general websites (such as FDA pages, Webmd, Medtronic, youtube videos, and others) as I searched for hernia repair options. Most of them were in favor of the popular mesh method as recommended by my Austin doctor. Mesh-based hernia procedure has gained popularity since 1980’s and by 2000 there was less than 10% of non-mesh hernia repairs. Some of the key claims about the mesh-based repairs were decreased operative time, reduced recovery time and lower rate of recurrence. Here is a quote I found about mesh hernia repairs – “Information found in medical literature has consistently demonstrated a reduced hernia recurrence rate when surgical mesh is used to repair the hernia compared to hernia repair without surgical mesh. For example, inguinal hernia recurrence is higher with open repair using sutures (primary closure) than with mesh repair.”
Two additional sources, however, made me re-think about mesh repair’s safety and its long-term effects. One was a client of mine who had a mesh done for the abdominal area. She candidly shared with me about her personal account of mesh challenges, of movement restrictions years later and continued discomfort/pain related to the mesh. She is considering to have a re-do in the same area but without mesh. I listened attentively and asked her many additional questions. This was great information and invaluable to my decision making process.
Another factor made me question about mesh hernia procedure was TV ads I see from time to time about lawyers soliciting previous mesh patients to contact them for information on the latest FDA position about the mesh operation. I further verified some of these cases and found some more realistic statistics. One of the key data I learned was that the recurrence rate for the mesh-base hernia repairs was actually about 5%. That means if I went for the mesh, I would have the 1 in 20 chance of re-doing that same repair again. And that did not include the possibility of other complications that my client and many thousands of others have run into with the mesh repair. Despite of its popularity and claim, I found it still too risky for me!
I also learned that non-mesh repairs were successfully preformed for more than 100 years. The trouble was not all surgeons learned how to do them correctly and as a result, the average recurrences rates were high. This was a great opportunity for mesh manufacturers to step in and teach everyone how to repair a hernia with a low recurrence rate using their product and making huge profits.
Once I decided not to go with the mesh, I turned my attention to looking for institutions that would give the safest and most reliable operation and the best long term prospect. Again, researching on the net, I found hundreds of options all over the States. The price ranged anywhere between $2,500 to around $25,000 for uninsured case. While money was important, the quality of work plus the post-op care and recovery was critical and priority one for me.
I want to credit Kevin C. Petersen, M.D. of No Insurance Surgery, Inc. for an article on non-mesh hernia repair. He not only highlighted the goodness of the old hernia procedure when done right but also singling out one organization above all others to be the leader in doing the hernia tissue repair worldwide.
That’s the name of the hospital that dedicates itself to hernia repair (all non-mesh) for the last 90 years and considered by many including Dr. Petersen, to have world’s most experienced surgeons with advanced non-mesh hernia tissue repair techniques. Their hernia repair recurrence rate is less than 1% (found out later it’s actually more like 0.5%). This is almost 10 times better than the mesh based technique from my research. I have improved my chances from 1 in 20 to 1 in 200. That’s remarkable and definitely noteworthy.
Then I read about their patient care process which impressed me even more. First of all, their acceptance criteria is strict but not restrictive. For example, a patient needs to submit a local doctor verification report about your hernia along with blood test and EKG reports. They pay particular attention to your personal blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight. You could be turned down based on any of the above items. Then, there is a 3-day post-op recovery period needed as you stay in their facility under close observation. This is to insure patient’s recovery process.
And then here is my last straw that made me to go for it – The Shouldice Hospital is located just 15 minutes drive from my mom’s place (where I can stay thereafter). My aunt and sister all live north of Toronto, Canada where the Shouldice Hospital is located.
I am within one-week now after my hernia surgery and still at my mom’s place writing this blog as I spend some time with her and recover myself. The blog publishing date would likely be a week or two delay from today. On my next blog I will describe my personal experience at the Shouldice Hospital when I have finally gone under their knife on April 28th, 2017.