Transvaginal mesh complications can appear suddenly and can profoundly affect a woman’s quality of life. As recently as 2010, this treatment was extremely popular and administered to about 300,000 women in a single year. In 2011, it became apparent that the surgery was not as safe as it was initially advertised to be. After three years of patient and adverse effect reviews, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that the risk of the surgery was great enough to merit concern. They also concluded that the treatment did not always improve the quality of life, even when there were no side effects present.
WHY ARE TRANSVAGINAL MESH COMPLICATIONS A CONCERN NOW?
This surgery is administered to women suffering from pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or stress urinary incontinence (SUI). POP occurs when one or more organs near the pelvic floor presses up against the vaginal wall. This can result in significant side effects and discomfort. SUI is identified by a weakening of the bladder sphincters, which may result in urine leaking while sneezing or during physical activity.
While both SUI and POP can be frustrating conditions to live with, mesh surgery can worsen a patient’s quality of life. In 2011, the FDA announced that in just a few short years, it had received more than 4,000 reports of serious adverse effects, many of them resulting in the death of the patient. In this statement, the FDA expressed skepticism that the surgery was a viable front line treatment for many patients. In fact, by the time of the announcement, several manufacturers had already recalled surgical slings and other devices associated with the surgery.
WHAT ARE THE MOST-COMMON TRANSVAGINAL MESH SURGERY COMPLICATIONS?
The New England Journal of Medicine released a study in 2011 that detailed a number of common side effects associated with the surgery. Some of these include vaginal scarring or urinary tract infections, both treated without significant medical support.
However, the surgery was also responsible for many instances of organ erosion and perforation. Erosion refers to the abrasion of organ cells, while perforation occurs when the device punctures the organ. In either case, the device can do significant organ damage in this way, or cause organs to rupture inside the abdominal cavity. Organ hemorrhaging can result in infection or dangerous internal bleeding.
Severe pain and pain present during sexual intercourse were also common mesh complications, and some women were unable to have children after the surgery. In most cases, additional surgeries were required to correct side effects caused by the device or to remove it altogether. This makes a malfunctioning transvaginal sling a costly medical mistake, both physically and financially.