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Evaluation of information on the Internet regarding surgical mesh for hernia repair: analysis of websites found through three popular search engines

Abstract

Purpose

Hernia repair remains one of the most common surgical procedures. Surgical mesh usage has been highlighted in the media due to recent lawsuits and recalls. Patients can read potentially biased information on the Internet and this can influence a patient’s healthcare decisions. The purpose of this study is to evaluate search engine listings and respective website content of surgical mesh for hernia repair.

Methods

Websites evaluated were derived from four keyword searches targeting surgical mesh with Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Websites from the first two pages of each search were evaluated for content comprehensiveness.

Results

The largest category of websites from search engine results was legal advertisements, accounting for 20% of all results. These websites also held the first position on every results page. Legal advertisements and blog/forum websites were the most skewed toward surgical mesh risks and complications vs. benefits. There was a reduction in advertisements in 2020 vs. 2018. The most comprehensive non-advertisement websites were found more frequently. Overall, only 44% of websites presented references and 50% cited supporting data. Finally, 46% of ‘recommended search terms’ displayed on the search engine results page had a risk, complication, or legal bias.

Conclusions

These results emphasize the challenges of using an Internet search engine to find comprehensive and appropriate information regarding surgical mesh. This manuscript underscores the importance for physicians to direct patients toward specific websites to mitigate their exposure to websites that are biased and not appropriate for patients searching for an accurate and comprehensive overview of surgical mesh.

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Fig. 1

Data availability

Available on request from Corresponding Author.

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Correspondence to Matthew P. Miller.

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Conflict of interest

Mr. Miller has no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose. Dr. Blatnik reports grants from Ethicon, personal fees from Medtronic, personal fees from BD (Formerly Bard Davol), and personal fees from Intuitive Surgical, outside the submitted work.

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Miller, M.P., Blatnik, J.A. Evaluation of information on the Internet regarding surgical mesh for hernia repair: analysis of websites found through three popular search engines. Hernia (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10029-021-02375-y

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Keywords

  • Surgical mesh
  • Patient education
  • Internet research
  • Search engine results page