What is vaginal mesh and what are the risks of surgery?
1st May, 2020
Expert Information

For many woman, dealing with incontinence or vaginal prolapse is a difficult reality. The NHS estimates that between 3 and 6 million people in the UK have some degree of urinary issue, and that 50% of women will develop a degree of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) in their lifetime.

Many women have turned to surgery in an attempt to solve the problem. Vaginal mesh implants were introduced as a means of treating these issues, but complications from the mesh or the operation have left many with a string of life-changing complications.

By pursuing a medical negligence claim, you could receive compensation for your mesh implant to help pay for remedial treatment as well as any trauma you have faced.

What is vaginal mesh?

The mesh used in urogynaecological and prolapse surgeries is generally a polypropylene “net-like” implant. It can be used to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP). There are different types, brands and manufacturers of these meshes. Common terms for mesh used to treat incontinence include “sling”, “tape”, “ribbon”, “mesh”, and “hammock”. However, in general these are all terms to describe a transvaginal (TVT) or transobturator (TOT) tape.

A TVT/TOT is used to lift and support the urethra or bladder neck where this has dropped. Surgery is done through the abdomen or the vagina, with the mesh then implanted and held in place so that the tissue will eventually grow into the mesh to create a wall of support.

The mesh used in POP is a similar construction but is often used specifically to strengthen the muscle walls surrounding the vagina or nearby structures.

What is vaginal mesh used for?

The use of synthetic material for surgical correction of POP and SUI became increasingly popular after their introduction in 1998. Between 2007 and 2015 there were over 92,000 mesh procedures in the UK. This includes 11,500 treatments for POP and 80,500 urinary incontinence surgeries.

Incontinence or prolapse symptoms can become common following childbirth, due to the increased trauma placed on the muscles and ligaments. As a result, the use of vaginal mesh has been introduced as a treatment. However, while mesh implants have been used successfully in the majority of cases, these flexible plastics have led to life-altering complications for many women.

In October 2018, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued new draft guidance on vaginal mesh surgery, recommending that women should opt for non-surgical treatments due to complications.

What complications might arise from surgery?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding this surgery, with around one in fifteen women in the UK requiring surgery to extract them.

Whilst there have always been known complications from mesh such as erosion, migration and pain, over time broader and more extensive complications have emerged.

These include:

  • Severe and constant abdominal and vaginal pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Mesh shrinkage
  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Vaginal scarring and shrinkage
  • Painful sexual intercourse (for men and women)
  • Urinary infection or incontinence

 

Complications from the mesh, or the operation, have left many
with a string of life-changing complications.

 

These mesh implants are designed to be permanent, as they become embedded in the surrounding tissue to help provide better support. Removal can require hours of surgery and there’s a risk of damaging nerves and nearby organs, potentially causing lasting damage and further pain in some instances.

In many cases, these risks were not discussed and inadequate warnings given to patients so that they could not make fully informed decisions when choosing to undergo mesh treatment.

If you have experienced complications from vaginal mesh treatment through the NHS or privately, you could be eligible to claim for compensation.

How to spot a problem following surgery

If you’re unsure what the symptoms of vaginal or pelvic mesh complications are, we’ve compiled a list of signs to look out for:

  • You feel unwell or feverish, or you may have developed a high temperature
  • Your surgical wound has become more painful/sensitive
  • The skin around your wound is hot to touch or swollen
  • The skin around your wound has become red
  • Green or yellow discharge (pus) is visible
  • Your wound develops an unpleasant smell

If you develop any of these symptoms and are concerned, you should contact your General Practitioner or attend a local walk-in centre for advice.

How to claim compensation for a mesh implant

At Patient Claim Line, we specialise in hospital negligence claims. We have experience in handling claims for women who have suffered as a result of negligent vaginal mesh surgery. Our experts have a wealth of experience when it comes to medical negligence, so we can provide you with the support you deserve throughout this process.

Unsure how the compensation process works? Discover how Patient Claim Line can help you by looking at our how it works section.

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