The use of transvaginal mesh in surgery to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI) has resulted in severe complications for thousands of women. As many as 1 in 10 patients experience negative side effects. In some cases, these are permanent.

Patients have reported side effects ranging from persistent pain and recurrent infections to life-altering problems like nerve damage and organ perforation. Several deaths have also been associated with complications arising from the use of vaginal mesh.

If you require pelvic surgery, talk to your doctor to ensure vaginal mesh will not be used in your treatment.

History of Transvaginal Mesh Complications

After proving effective in the treatment of hernias, mesh implants were brought to market for use in POP surgery in the early 2000s–despite a lack of clinicals trials or sufficient long-term data about their safety. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved more than 60 vaginal mesh devices, many of which were later pulled from production amidst growing concerns from doctors and the general public. To learn more about transvaginal mesh recalls, explore the recalls tab.

From as early as 2005, reports of complications relating to vaginal mesh had been brought to the FDA’s attention. As more and more reports came to light, the agency took steps to increase public awareness of the risks of vaginal mesh implants and warn doctors against the use of mesh devices. In 2016, the FDA reclassified all transvaginal mesh devices as class III, meaning they are considered high-risk and require premarket approval.

This reclassification came too late for countless women who were unaware of the risks associated with transvaginal mesh implants. In some cases, these women were unaware they were receiving a mesh implant at all.

Risks, Side Effects, and Complications of Vaginal Mesh

A number of life-altering and potentially fatal complications and side effects are associated with transvaginal mesh implants. Some patients experience multiple or recurrent complications. Repeat surgery is often required to correct these complications, at a much higher rate than is associated with non-mesh pelvic surgeries.

Side Effects and Complications of Transvaginal Mesh Implants
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Infection
  • Erosion of mesh through the vaginal wall
  • Organ perforation (during or after surgery)
  • Dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercouse)
  • Vaginal scarring
  • Vaginal shrinkage
  • Persistent vaginal discharge
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Urinary problems
  • Pelvic abscesses
  • Pelvic and vaginal hematomas (abnormal swelling of clotted blood)
  • Fistulas (abnormal communication between organs)
  • Neuromuscular problems
  • Nerve damage

Some women experience no ill effects after receiving a mesh implant. For others, a complete or partial removal of the mesh may be required to prevent further harm. This is often difficult to do and can require multiple surgeries, with no guarantee of success.

A 2011 study published in the International Urogynecology Journal found that as many as 10% of women who undergo pelvic surgery involving vaginal mesh experience complications. Of the 73 patients studied, surgery to remove some or all of the mesh helped reduce the symptoms in 92% of cases. But no improvement was evident in 8% of patients.

Transvaginal mesh surgery can result in complications like organ perforation as the mesh is being fitted. Between 2008 and 2010, there were seven recorded deaths associated with POP surgery. Of these, three were directly caused by the placement of transvaginal mesh during the procedure. It is possible that some deaths were not recorded, and may have been attributed to malfunction or some other cause.

What To Do If You Experience Side Effects

If you or someone you know is experiencing complications after receiving a vaginal mesh implant, speak to your doctor or gynecologist immediately. Left untreated, these complications may worsen, resulting in infection, severe pain, or even death.

Surgery may be required to remove the implant. Your doctor will be able to advise you about what’s best for you.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of vaginal mesh products. This has led to a number of patients who experienced complications receiving settlements or taking their claims to trail. If transvaginal mesh has negatively impacted your quality of life, you may be eligible to file a claim. Visit the lawsuits tab to find out more about transvaginal mesh lawsuits, or click here to learn more about your legal right to safe medical devices.

Alternatives to Transvaginal Mesh

If you are affected by POP or SUI, it is important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible. To learn more about the symptoms of these conditions, click here.

There are a number of alternatives to transvaginal mesh implants that can be just as effective and do not carry the same risks. Surgical alternatives include:

Transvaginal Mesh Alternatives
Native Tissue RepairBiological Graft
Instead of using mesh, this procedure uses tissues from the patient’s own body to support the pelvic floor.This procedure uses donor tissue (typically taken from a human, cow, or pig) that has been modified so that the host body will accept them. These grafts are incorporated into the patient’s body to support the pelvic floor.

 

In some cases, surgery is not required. Your doctor may recommend pelvic floor therapy (such as Kegel exercises) to strengthen the muscles and tissues that support your pelvic organs. You may also be fitted for a pessary device, a plastic device usually made from silicon that can be inserted into the vagina to support the pelvic floor. Unlike mesh, pessary devices can be removed at any time without surgical intervention.

Some lifestyle changes can help reduce the symptoms of POP and SUI. If you are a smoker, your doctor will recommend that you quit, since smoking is linked to chronic coughing that puts pressure on the abdomen. Weight loss can also help to reduce this pressure.

You have a legal right to safe medical devices. If you are concerned about transvaginal mesh, discuss your treatment options with your doctor.