Urogynaecological mesh was introduced in the 1990’s to treat stress urinary incontinence(SUI). It was then adapted to treat pelvic organ prolapse(POP).
Urogynecological mesh is a permanent synthetic mesh implant that is made from polypropylene plastic or biomaterial like porcine (pig). It is surgically implanted into your pelvis either transvaginally or abdominally to help support prolapsed organs and support muscles. Anchors are often used to secure the mesh which can also be made of polypropylene.
There is currently no clear indication of how many women have had mesh implants in Australia.
A Senate Enquiry into Transvaginal Mesh and Related Matters was convened on 15 February 2017 after women came forward to report serious complications.
“Many women who have had transvaginal mesh implants have had devastating complications resulting in ongoing emotional trauma, embarrassment, shame, depression, debilitating pain, recurring infection and a poor quality of life. The inquiry heard from many women who are living with the consequences of having had these implants. It is heartbreaking that for so long the experiences of these women have been ignored. These women have been let down, the system has failed them.
Senator Rachel Siewert, 28 March 2018
Senate findings estimate between 150,000-175,000 procedures for SUI and POP.
There is no clear information on what percentage of women are suffering from complications because at this time there is no mandatory reporting requirement for doctors or health professionals to report the complications. (please see Reporting your complication for further information).
Some estimates worldwide range between 1% to 35%
Many women have been suffering in silence as they have no idea that their mesh surgery could be directly related to their pain. Some women do not suffer complications for many years after surgery as the mesh, shrinks, hardens, erodes and embeds into the muscle and sometimes into organs.
It is important to realise that because mesh is a permanent device it is extremely difficult to remove without causing further damage. Even after full removal, many women still suffer from pain and complications.
Mesh removal is by far the most complicated and technically demanding procedure(s) a gynecologic surgeon can perform secondary to the scarring/adherence of the mesh on the delicate pelvic organs, the distorted anatomy, previously operated vaginal tissues and the mesh arms that penetrated the pelvic floor muscles.
It has been described as pulling chewing gum out of hair.
Therefore, it is imperative that you do your own research and pursue mesh removal surgical treatment with a master vaginal surgeon, with a proven track record of successful and safe mesh removals, who is tenured in the treatment of vaginal prolapse and incontinence; and is able to remove the mesh without tissue destruction utilizing a tissue sparing removal technique by obtaining the needed surgical exposure.
Above all, it is the surgical skill set, experience and judgement of the surgeon that will make the difference for the outcomes of each particular patient and the quality of life.
That being said, many women report that they still have significant pain afterwards.
In recent studies polypropylene mesh has been shown to cause auto immune conditions, chronic inflammation and frequent infections. Many women who have developed these conditions have found that the symptoms have dramatically subsided after mesh removal.
Tracey Whyte from WAPMSG talks about life living with synthetic pelvic mesh implants.