What is Polypropylene? The Plastic in Your Mesh

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If you’ve had a hernia or pelvic prolapse surgery, chances are good that you’re walking around with polypropylene surgical mesh — a flat, nonabsorbable loosely-woven permanent plastic “fabric” — in your body.

About Polypropylene Hernia Mesh

A polypropylene mesh was first used surgically in 1958 for the repair of an abdominal wall and is known as a “first generation” mesh. The “second generation” meshes combine two types of plastic with other materials such as the metal titanium, while “third generation” meshes are derived from animal tissues.

Polypropylene remains the most common type of mesh used in hernia and pelvic organ prolapse surgeries. Its most common overall medical use is in the Prolene brand of surgical sutures.

Chronic postoperative pain is unfortunately all-too-common following insertion of polypropylene mesh. Research indicates that polypropylene may stiffen once in the body due to exposure to oxidative stress, a biochemical process. This stiffening may be the source of the pain.

Other complications of failed hernia mesh include bleeding and infection, bowel obstruction and erectile dysfunction. A number of polypropylene hernia mesh products are no longer on the market due to FDA recalls.

Polypropylene has an unusual chemical makeup that makes it one of the most versatile plastics around. In addition to medical and industrial uses, polypropylene is found in a wide range of consumer goods, everything from car bumpers and batteries to area rugs, microwaveable containers, plastic “hinge” lids, cutting boards, colanders and athletic apparel. Its versatility stems from its characteristics: it doesn’t react with water or detergents, has a very high melting point, is extremely durable, and doesn’t crack or stretch even when flexed.

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Carah Wertheimer

Carah Wertheimer is a freelance writer based in Boulder, Colorado. Her areas of specialization include food, health, environment, social justice and community reporting. Her work has appeared in the Denver Post, The Daily Beast, the Boulder Daily Camera, Boulder Weekly and other publications.

Originally published at https://medtruth.com on February 15, 2019.

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