Autoinflammatory/autoimmunity syndrome induced by adjuvants (Shoenfeld's syndrome) in patients after a polypropylene mesh implantation

Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


In both hernia repair and pelvic organ prolapse surgery, polypropylene (PP) meshes are increasingly used. Although these technologies offer tremendous clinical benefits, the efficacy of these implants can be hindered by the body's immunologic reaction to the implanted material. Undesirable local effects such as chronic pain have been extensively described. Systemic effects, however, are not yet reported. Because systemic effects after implantation of other biomaterials have been described, we evaluated patients with implanted PP meshes for signs and symptoms of biomaterial-related systemic illnesses. Patients referred to an Autoimmunity Clinic between January 2014 and December 2017 were analyzed. In 40 patients, mesh implants were present. These patients were evaluated for the development of a systemic illness. Thirty-two consecutive women and eight men were included in the current study. Median age at the time of operation was 49.5 years (range, 28-75 years). Eighteen patients had a hernia repair and 22 patients had a vaginal mesh implant. Thirty-nine of 40 patients presented with chronic fatigue, and 38 of 40 patients had myalgia or muscle weakness. In most patients, these symptoms started shortly after the operation. All patients fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for autoinflammatory/autoimmunity syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA). In addition, most patients reported localized pain and (often-invalidating) irritable bowel syndrome. One quarter of the patients had an immunodeficiency, whereas a diagnosis of well-established systemic and/or localized autoimmune diseases was made in 45% of patients. Importantly, 75% of patients had a pre-existing allergic disease. In 6 patients, the hernia mesh could be completely removed, thereby resulting in (partial) recovery of the systemic disease. In conclusion, 40 patients developed symptoms of a systemic illness after a mesh operation. All patients fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for ASIA. One quarter of the patients had an immunodeficiency, whereas in approximately half of the patients, an autoimmune disease developed. We postulate that PP mesh implants may increase the risk of developing (auto)immune diseases by acting as an adjuvant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-520
Number of pages10
JournalBest Practice & Research in Clinical Rheumatology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoimmunity/drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polypropylenes/adverse effects
  • Surgical Mesh/adverse effects
  • Syndrome

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