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Hernia Mesh Implants Cost Athlete Dai Greene Five Years Of Career

November 27, 2018

One of Britain’s most successful athletes was forced to sit out an entire Olympic cycle after suffering serious complications from mesh implants used to repair a minor hernia.

Dai Greene, a world champion hurdler who captained the Great Britain athletics team at the 2012 London Olympics, lost five years of his career after the surgery, which he was told would allow him to return to the track within weeks.

“The golden thing I got sold was that after three weeks you’ll be back running and after six weeks you’ll be completely fine,” he said. “It got advertised to me as foolproof … stronger than anything else you could have.”

After the surgery in 2013, Greene suffered acute pain. A series of operations to put things right revealed the mesh had become frayed and entangled with nerves in his pelvis.

Up to 100,000 hernia mesh operations are carried out in England each year, and the medical regulator has recorded 222 reports of “adverse events” linked to the process over the past decade.

But clinical registries and health data in other countries point to some products having higher complication rates, suggesting problems may have been under-reported in the UK.

Greene, 32, had the surgery in spring 2013 to correct a small hernia in the inguinal muscles around the pelvis.


He does not recall being told of any potential risks, but said his surgeon told him of a previous patient – a professional weightlifter – who missed his follow-up appointment after surgery because he was competing in the Olympics.

After seemingly making a quick recovery from the surgery, on returning to training he immediately began suffering significant pelvic pain. “Surgery alone shouldn’t cause this much discomfort,” he said.

By the autumn, Greene’s doctor concluded the original hernia was still present and the athlete had a second operation, which did not help.

Still unable to train, he underwent two mesh removal surgeries in Germany in 2014 and 2015 (on one side and then the other), which finally relieved the pain.

His surgeon found the mesh had frayed and become entangled with the nerves, which had to be snipped. “That’s why anytime I was moving I was in loads of pain, because there was something just constantly pressing on my nerve,” he said.

Complications from the multiple surgeries and time off training meant Greene also missed the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and lost lucrative sponsorship deals.

Q&A

“To have that much time off in your career, of no running, is just crazy,” he said. “From being one of the best in the world year after year to just falling off the radar entirely … It’s a massive frustration. I’ve only got a finite amount of time to do what I want to do in my career. I try not to think too much about [what happened] because then I’ll get bitter.”

Greene’s experience echoes those of other patients who have had problems with hernia mesh. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cites pain, infection and hernia recurrence as the most frequent complications.

In some cases, the frequency of complications emerged only after products were used in huge numbers of patients.

Johnson & Johnson recalled one of its leading mesh implants in 2016 after German and Dutch registries showed it had a particularly high failure rate, five years after the implant was brought to market with no clinical trial. The company is facing class action lawsuits in Canada, Australia and the US.

In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said of its product, called Physiomesh: “Based on the available data, we believe the higher rates to be the result of multiple factors, including possible product characteristics, operative, and patient factors.”

The company added: “Our highest priority is the safety of those who use our products.”

This summer, Greene won gold at the British athletics championships and captained the GB team at the European championships. But the experience has shaken his confidence and he advises other athletes to be cautious.

“If you are going to see a surgeon there is only one response that they’re going to give you: that they can fix you with surgery,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do and it doesn’t mean that they can.”

He also has concerns about a lack of information available to patients regarding the pros and cons of surgery and implants.

“In sport we always like to deal in numbers,” he said, adding that it ought to be possible to provide basic success rates and the numbers of people who report pain or other setbacks after a procedure.

“It’s simply asking questions of people who’ve had surgery,” he said. “I feel like there’s nothing out there that’s that easy to get hold of for us. We just take whatever information the doctor is telling us or selling us as fact.”

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2018 12:36 pm

    Reblogged this on michaelsnaith.

  2. November 27, 2018 4:03 pm

    Some ‘celeb’-free stories –

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    ‘HOUNDED BY NHS’ Depressed mum killed herself with the pills that had driven her into debt after £8.60 unpaid prescription charge spiralled –
    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7767469/mum-nhs-killed-herself-pills-debt/

    Mother killed herself after NHS ‘hounded her for £29.20’ for pills –
    https://metro.co.uk/2018/11/19/mother-killed-herself-after-nhs-hounded-her-for-29-20-for-pills-8155133/?ito=cbshare

    Rudd urged to ditch DWP policies after damning UN report –
    https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/rudd-urged-to-ditch-dwp-policies-after-damning-un-report-37536848.html

    Severely disabled girl, 19, and grandmother could lose home due to benefit cuts –
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    Disabled man who struggles to walk or use his right arm survives on £40 a week after he was ruled fit for work as a barman and had benefits cut –
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    Ordinary Scots to prevent benefit system ‘turning into the DWP’ –
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    The Guardian’s coverage of the UN visit is pathetic –
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    • November 29, 2018 12:49 pm

      This is more than just a celeb story to me- a close family member has been left with lasting problems due to hernia mesh so I cover it from every angle at every opportunity.

      • November 30, 2018 10:08 pm

        It’s what you are choosing NOT to cover.

        Is it only celebs, relatives and fake ‘news’ from DWP stooges (BBC / Benefits and Work) now?

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