Women around the globe have suffered serious side effects from transvaginal mesh before the products were pulled from the market entirely. These defective products left a trail of ruined lives and even death in their wake. The effects of this product have lived on long after makers of the product either withdrew it voluntarily or even were ordered to remove it from the market. In Scotland, there have been numerous problems with both hernia mesh and transvaginal mesh. The complications that people who have received implants of these mesh products have drawn close media attention as people have drawn sympathy from the public for the difficulties that they have suffered. Now, the government is reviewing the situation and offering some help to women who have had to live with the consequences of a surgery that they were told was going to be routine.
Pelvic organ prolapse is common in women who have been through pregnancy and childbirth. It can lead to incontinence and feelings of bulging and discomfort. For many women, surgery is an option to treat this condition. Companies developed a transvaginal mesh to help repair the problem. It was inserted through the vagina in a surgical procedure to help relieve the pressure.
The Dangers of Transvaginal and Hernia Mesh
However, transvaginal mesh proved to exhibit many of the same dangers as hernia mesh. Because it is a synthetic product, it often did not hold up and last as it should have. The problem with the synthetic material is that it was prone to either shift out of place or disintegrate. When the mesh moved, it ended up doing damage to internal organs. When it disintegrated, it became nearly impossible to remove from the body with surgery. Oftentimes, multiple procedures are required and, even then, it does not fully fix the problem. The result is that women end up in intense pain and discomfort that can last for the rest of their lives. Worldwide, there have even been numerous deaths associated with the product. Hernia mesh recipients have often experienced similar complications after their surgery that has doomed them to years of constant pain.
Nature of the polypropylene
In order to fully understand the problem with the use of this mesh, one has to know the nature of the polypropylene from which it is made. This is a type of plastic, and it is used in carpets, rugs and piping. It is not a far stretch to imagine that medical implants made of this material can be dangerous in the human body.
The Use of Mesh in Scotland
In Scotland, the use of transvaginal mesh was halted in 2014, although hernia mesh is still frequently used in surgeries. The Scottish government has largely been proactive in addressing the public health crisis through study and intervention. Some of what the Scottish government has done could provide a framework if governments begin to cut back on the use of hernia mesh in the future given its dangers.
After the Scottish government barred the surgical procedure, it did convene a commission to review the surgery to establish limited circumstances under which the use of transvaginal mesh could occur. The result was that the Scottish government expressed a policy that these surgeries should not be offered routinely and the preference would be for the repair of the tissue as opposed to the use of a synthetic mesh. This is a model that could ultimately be used for regulating the repair of hernias as they also address native tissue repair. Nonetheless, even with the reasoned policy of the Scottish government, the surgery still has been performed hundreds of times in Scotland since the ban. One can only imagine how difficult it would be to fully ban the use of hernia mesh in Scotland if the clearly dangerous transvaginal mesh took so long to ban.
First Minister Sturgeon Gets Involved
The Scottish government has still done more in the area of mesh surgery. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has personally met with women who received mesh in surgery and are now experiencing complications. She understands many of the issues that these women are facing, and her government continues to try to help these women. At the meeting, First Minister Sturgeon was informed that many women are still stuck with the defective mesh in their bodies notwithstanding promises that were made to them that the mesh would be removed in its entirety.
Now, First Minister Sturgeon has promised the women the opportunity to meet with an independent clinician who would review the notes of their individual cases. The clinician will then issue a report on their cases. Following that, the women may be referred to a specialist for individualized care. For now, only the women who met with First Minister Sturgeon have this option available to them. However, there is at least a chance that other women who are experiencing side effects may have this opportunity in the future.
One of the steps that First Minister Sturgeon is promising is to bring a specialist over from the U.S. who has expertise in removing the failed mesh. The doctor has developed his own technique to remove the mesh from the body. However, he has previously been at an impasse with the Scottish government regarding his visit from the U.S. The doctor has offered to perform operations and train Scottish doctors to remove the mesh from patients’ bodies. In addition, the Scottish Government has pledged money to a fund that was created to help the women who are suffering. In the meantime, Scottish women are raising awareness of the dangers of surgery that uses defective mesh.
Transvaginal and Hernia Mesh Cause Widespread Injuries
The problem extends beyond Scotland and to the U.K. and the entire world. In the U.K., Over 100,000 had this procedure, and thousands of them are now injured. Beyond that, there are also hundreds of thousands of patients in the U.K. who are suffering long-term complications from hernia mesh procedures. In Scotland, as in the rest of the U.K., there is ongoing litigation against mesh manufacturers for the complications that patients have suffered. In Scotland, there is both litigation against the Health Boards as well as the mesh manufacturers.
One woman gave a detailed account of the suffering that she has endured. She had to give up her job because she could no longer continue to work with the crippling pain that she feels. She is now receiving public benefits and has little to no quality of life. First Minister Sturgeon has offered her dates to meet with a specialist, but this woman still believes that more needs to be done.
One possible thing that could help is more advanced methods to remove the mesh from the body of the patient. With transvaginal and hernia mesh, one of the reasons for the intense pain is that the mesh is stuck in the body. Routine surgery is not always able to remove it so the patients endure with continued discomfort. More can be done by way of research to devise a way to extract the mesh from the body without the need for multiple surgeries.
Debilitating side effects
In addition, some continue to call for a complete ban on all types of surgery with mesh. This includes hernia mesh surgery that relies on polypropylene mesh to correct the hernia. However, patients have experienced a number of debilitating side effects. While they are told that it will be routine surgery, as many as 30 percent of patients who have hernia mesh surgery can end up with side effects. These can range from infection to mesh failure. What compounds the problem is that these side effects can linger for many years, and some patients’ lives will never be the same again after their surgery.