Transvaginal mesh implant surgeries are designed to provide support for weakened muscle and ligament structures in the lower abdominal region. Many women have had to undergo revision surgeries to correct complications that arise from the implants. First approved and performed in 2004, the damaging effects of transvaginal mesh surgeries are just now coming to light.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse conditions – the weakening of lower abdominal support structures – can develop in women who’ve experienced childbirth, women who’ve had hysterectomies and also menopausal women. Over time, weakened muscles and ligaments can lead to a host of medical problems, such as incontinence and persistent pain as internal organs collapse inside the abdomen.
Transvaginal mesh implant surgeries are intended to address these problems, however reports received by the FDA from 2008 to 2010 show as many as 3,000 women experienced serious complications from these surgeries. As a result, a number of women have had to undergo transvaginal mesh revision surgeries and oftentimes more than one surgery is needed.
Mesh Implant Problems
The standard mesh device used for transvaginal surgeries is made out of non-absorbable synthetic polypropylene. As a synthetic material, it’s prone to shrink in an area that’s prone to expand and contract. Also of concern is the synthetic composition of the implant which resides inside the vagina, an area which maintains a natural, sterile chemical balance.
In terms of the surgical procedure, the implant inserts inside abdominal tissue as a type of netting which eventually “meshes” with surrounding tissue, according to Common Health’s news site. Considering the implant’s physical make-up, it’s likely to erode inside a woman’s vaginal tissue. This condition can lead to infection and overall chronic wound breakdown.
Problems with Transvaginal Revision Surgeries
Since 2004, there’s been a considerable increase in the number of reports of adverse effects from transvaginal mesh implants. According to Medpage Today, the years 2008 to 2010 saw 1,500 reports which amount to five times more the number of reports submitted between 2005 and 2007. Of the 100,000 pelvic organ repair surgeries done in 2010, 75,000 were transvaginal procedures. An additional 260,000 surgeries were done to relieve stress urinary incontinence problems.
Problems encountered with revision surgeries have to do with the way the implant material interacts with surrounding tissues. In effect, the implants were shown to slice through vaginal walls causing pain, abscesses and vaginal bleeding.
Transvaginal mesh revision surgeries attempt to reposition an implant that’s shifted and/or extract the device completely. Repositioning is necessary in cases where an implant has sliced through the vaginal walls or nearby organs, such as the bladder. These problems can worsen symptoms of incontinence, cause internal bleeding, nerve damage and also make sexual intercourse painful.
In some cases, a woman’s body may completely reject the implant in which case an extraction procedure becomes necessary. It’s not uncommon for a woman to undergo multiple revision surgeries before ultimately having an implant removed. The types of complications most often encountered include:
- Bowel injuries
- Bladder inuring
- Blocked urethra
- Damage to blood vessels
Transvaginal mesh revisions may involve the removal of the implant in its entirety or removing pieces that have broken off or eroded. The surgical process entails an intricate procedure where surgeons must separate the surrounding tissue from the implant material. In many cases, this means cutting out the mesh as well as portions of the surrounding tissue area. Once completed, surgeons must stitch the affected tissue back together.
Because of the way the mesh absorbs into the flesh, it’s difficult for surgeons to completely remove an implant in one surgery. More oftentimes than, multiple surgeries are necessary to completely remove an implant.
Once a transvaginal mesh revision is performed, the initial problem that prompted implant surgery returns. Aftermath effects from a procedure may also bring on new problems, such as incontinence or bowel problems. The actual effects encountered depend on where the implant was located and the damage it caused.
In cases where infection has set in due to the body’s rejecting the implant material, areas where tissue requires stitching may not heal properly. As a result, women may experience chronic infections, internal bleeding and pain during intercourse. Depending on the extent of the infection, woman may also experience muscular problems and vaginal scarring.
As transvaginal mesh implants are designed to be permanent, women who require revision surgeries may experience long-term discomfort until the area is completely healed.