The marked reduction in recurrence rates following reinforcement of the abdominal wall by meshes in incisional hernia has promoted their increasingly widespread use. The primary suture in technique failed more than half of the cases; therefore, the closure method needs to be changed and improved, particularly with regard to a possibly underlying defect in collagen metabolism. After more than 100 years of mesh development they are mainly placed in a sublay or onlay position, ePTFE, polyester and polypropylene are preferred. In any case the mesh has to overlap the defect sufficiently because of wound contraction. On the basis of our experience and reports in the literature, the advantages and disadvantages of various mesh techniques and mesh materials are discussed. However, because long-term studies are missing, the relevance of the cumulative risk for long-term complications such as mesh migration and fistula formation, the extent of patient complaints or the potential risk of a persistent foreign-body reaction cannot yet be ascertained. Nevertheless, because there are no surgical alternatives, meshes represent an improvement in hernia surgery that cannot be overestimated.