There has been much media attention to the transvaginal mesh products and treatment of pelvic organ prolapse, which is common in menopause. I have been in touch with Drugwatch, a consumer advocate website which provides information on issues with drugs and medical devices. As always, talk to your practitioner for more information on your particular issue and ask questions. As a practitioner myself, I learn from all sorts of areas and questions my patients ask me are an inspiration to seeking more knowledge in order to provide them with the best options.
If you have been diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse, or POP, understanding your treatment options is incredibly important. Some women find that their doctors do not know much about the complications associated with one of the most common treatments for POP — transvaginal mesh surgery. Before you go forward with this type of treatment, you need to know what risks you may be facing.
First, POP occurs when one of the pelvic organs, typically the bladder, uterus or rectum, moves out of its position and begins pressing on the vaginal walls. Symptoms include urinary incontinence or frequency, a feeling of pressure or fullness in the lower abdomen, and pain. POP typically happens after pregnancy or it can occur with aging.
1. What are the complications associated with transvaginal mesh procedures? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the most common complication with the transvaginal mesh procedure is mesh erosion. This can cause numerous issues as the mesh breaks up, and the organ can go back into its prolapsed position, requiring more surgery. Another complication is having the mesh break through the walls of the vagina, which in turn can cause serious bleeding and pain, and increases the risk of serious infection.
2. How common are these complications? Unfortunately, these complications are increasingly common, with the FDA receiving more than 2,800 reports of adverse events in a period between 2008 and 2010. These reports continue to come in. Other complications reported include emotional trauma following the procedure, as well as neuro-muscular complaints. Numerous Mesh lawsuits have already been filed.
3. Is this procedure safe? The FDA states that physicians must receive specific, specialized training prior to performing this operation. This training is unfortunately not that common, and surgeons may not be aware that their patients are facing numerous risks as a result of a transvaginal mesh implant. Ideally, when performed by a qualified surgeon, the risks are fewer.
4. What are my other treatment options? There are numerous options for treating POP, including the use of muscle exercises known as Kegels that can strengthen the walls of the vagina and provide more support for the slipping organs. Other treatments include weight loss and changing your lifestyle, such as reducing caffeine intake. Surgery without the use of transvaginal mesh can also be effective. According to the FDA, non-mesh procedures are often more effective that procedures with the mesh.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion if you have been diagnosed with POP. Make sure you see a specialist OB-GYN who has experience in treating POP and is well aware of the risks associated with the transvaginal mesh procedure.
It’s your body, and you have the right to suggest a different course of treatment. The FDA is continuing to receive reports about complications with this procedure, and their findings are made public on their website. Staying informed will help you protect your own health and provide you with different options for treating your POP.
Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.