Bioprosthetic Versus Synthetic Mesh: Analysis of Tissue Adherence and Revascularization in an Experimental Animal Model

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Both synthetic and bioprosthetic meshes play important roles in surgical procedures such as ventral hernia repair. Although sometimes used interchangeably, these devices have inherently different properties. We therefore sought to better understand how these materials interact with the host environment to optimize surgical techniques and to improve outcomes.


Synthetic mesh (polypropylene, Prolene) or bioprosthetic mesh (acellular fetal/neonatal bovine dermis, SurgiMend) was implanted intraperitoneally into rats lateral to a ventral incision in a novel intra-abdominal implant model. Two variables were modified with each material: (1) tight or loose tissue apposition, altered by modifying suture placement; and (2) abdominal wall injury, altered by selective abrasion of the peritoneal lining. After 5 weeks, the meshes and abdominal wall were evaluated grossly and histologically. The analysis focused on the degree of inflammatory response, neovascularization, and mesh adherence to the surrounding tissues.


Synthetic mesh adhered to the abdominal wall and visceral organs, regardless of the degree of apposition or tissue injury, due to a foreign body–mediated inflammatory reaction. In areas of noninjured peritoneal lining, SurgiMend was adherent peri-suture. Neovascularization entered the mesh from these apposition points and spread outward. In areas of denuded peritoneal lining, the adherent and vascularized areas were significantly greater and not merely coincident with suture placement.


The inflammatory and wound healing responses with bioprosthetic mesh seem fundamentally different from synthetic mesh. Understanding these differences may lead to varied outcomes in adherence and vascularization of the materials, and ultimately the efficacy of hernia repair. Additionally, these differences highlight the need for further basic research to optimize mesh selection for surgical technique.

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