We’ve all heard the ominous ads come over the television warning us about medical device issues and lawsuits. You may have noticed a new term on these ads that have popped up, and that is for pelvic mesh implants, sometimes referred to as a transvaginal mesh. Thousands of women have had this surgical tool used and are suffering the consequences. However, if you haven’t had the mesh implants, you may be curious as to what they are, why there are used, and why women are suing over them. Wonder no more!
What Are Pelvic Mesh Implants?
Also referred to as transvaginal mesh, pelvic mesh implants are generally referred to as urogynaecological meshes. The goals sound harmless enough – treating stress incontinence, which sees women dealing with bladder leakage, particularly when doing physical activity. Normally brought on by childbirth or menopause, this can impact up to 20% of women.
Even more commonly, the meshes were also used to treat prolapses of pelvic organs, which includes the bladder, rectum, or uterus. Simply put, a prolapse is when one of these organs becomes discombobulated because the muscles that normally hold it in place become weakened. Most commonly, this affects women after childbirth as the physical effects of both pregnancy and childbirth can vastly impact the muscular structure of the pelvis. In fact, some estimates put the rate of impact of pelvic organ prolapse as high as 50%. Some cases are severe enough to greatly impact the quality of life of women, including causing urinary and sexual issues.
The mesh implants were introduced to combat these issues. Initially, with stress incontinence, they saw many advantages to the use of implants. Previously, open surgery was required to fix prolapses, and the mesh implant surgery only took about 30 minutes, and most patients could go home the same day. Results for this were so good that the mesh was used to treat prolapses as well. In some countries, the use of mesh, often in the form of transvaginal tape, became so popular by 2010 that it was the final treatment option for prolapse in almost a quarter of patients.
So What Are Women Suing Over Them Now?
It turns out that while the results were impressive for stress incontinence, more testing should have been done on the efficacy and side effects of pelvic mesh for prolapse issues. Instead of the same level of success, it turns out that, according to the UK’s National Health Service, one in every 15 women who get the pelvic mesh treatment will need surgery to extract it. Even in those were extraction wasn’t needed, the efficacy of the tape is highly in doubt. A recent survey found that 59% of pelvic mesh patients didn’t feel their initial issue was resolved, and 58% reported painful sexual intercourse after the procedure. While that survey wasn’t scientific, the results still speak volumes. The mesh has also been known to erode and cause severe side effects, like intense pain, bleeding, and recurring prolapse, among many others. This has led some nations to ban the usage of the mesh.
For this reason, class action suits are being filed on behalf of patients from around the world. It is estimated that many thousands of women have received the mesh implants and could be facing these side effects. The lawsuits target the various manufacturers of the mesh, with the largest suit being filed against Johnson & Johnson. The results of these cases are still outstanding, particularly as the negative side effects of the pelvic mesh can take years to show up.