The vaginal mesh is a semi-permeable barrier implanted surgically through the vagina to keep internal organs in place. They are typically used to treat female stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP).

“Vaginal sling,” or “bladder sling,” procedures are often used to treat pelvic organ prolapse, a condition in which a woman’s reproductive organs fall into or through her vaginal opening. The front wall of the vagina, which supports the bladder, can weaken or loosen with age or from significant bodily stress such as childbirth. During prolapse, the bladder descends into the vagina and may trigger problems such as urinary difficulties, discomfort, and stress incontinence (urine leakage by sneezing, coughing, etc.).

The initial recall was announced in December 2005, but additional mesh products were not included in the recall until March 2006 and January 2007. The mesh products have been classified by the FDA due to the reasonable probability that they may cause serious adverse health complications, including death. This is because the broken mesh or coils can pierce through body organs.

A transvaginal mesh implant is done to treat lower body issues like SUI and POP. The doctors trust this treatment to treat the weak vaginal wall to support the urethra or bladder neck. Before the end of 2019, these treatments were very popular among people for their POP issues, but due to some complications recorded by the patients, the FDA banned all these treatments in 2019.

Common complications are as follows:

  • Infection
  • Erosion of the mesh into the vagina
  • Urinary problems
  • Pelvic pain
  • Vaginal pain
  • Hardening of the vaginal mesh
  • Corrective surgeries
  • Injury to nearby organs
  • Difficulty during sex after vaginal surgery

What is a transvaginal mesh implant?

A transvaginal mesh implant is a treatment for SUI and POP, in which a net-like device made of polypropylene (a type of plastic) is implanted in the pelvic area to support weakened or loose muscles. Some manufacturers claimed that these meshes were made with animal tissue to avoid plastic reactions inside the body. This treatment was popular among women as it was designed to permanently treat SUI and POP conditions, with an estimated 260,000 surgeries for POP performed in 2010. 

Why did the FDA ban transvaginal mesh implants?

In 2019, the FDA ordered a halt to the sale of transvaginal meshes for the treatment of POP, citing a lack of evidence for their benefits and a higher risk ratio compared to potential benefits. As a result, many women who had undergone these treatments and consequently suffered health issues filed complaints against the mesh manufacturers.

What are the significant harms of using a transvaginal mesh implant?

As transvaginal mesh implants are still on the market and supported by many doctors, this list describes possible health risks that may be associated with transvaginal mesh implants, and individuals who have received such implants should be aware of these symptoms and seek medical attention if they experience any of them:

  • Irregular bleeding or vaginal discharge that was not present before
  • Pelvic pain or unusual swelling in the genital area
  • Discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • Bladder or bowel problems that were not present before
  • Tingling or severe stabbing pain in the vagina that worsens with exercise
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Pain in the buttocks or surrounding area
  • Leg pain

These are some of the issues that patients have reported experiencing after having transvaginal mesh implants. It’s important to note that the symptoms may start as minor discomforts that are easy to ignore, but this negligence can lead to unbearable pain and serious health problems.

How do you know if you are suffering from transvaginal mesh implant complications?

Many people ignore the minor discomfort that they feel after having implants, but this discomfort can be a sign of a larger problem. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Discomfort while urinating
  • Changes in urine
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pelvic pain, which persists even after using painkillers

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not ignore them – there is something wrong with your implant and you must see a doctor.

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