Bladder Sling Mesh Complications

by Steve Fields on May 14th, 2012

Surgical mesh implants are installed transvaginally to correct pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary continence (SUI). POP is a condition in which the bladder, rectum, or other organs in the pelvic region drop from their normal places, and press against the vaginal tissue. SUI is an inability to control the release of urine. In July 2011, the FDA issued a press release announcing that installation of mesh through the vaginal wall could cause numerous bladder sling mesh complications. Some are serious and require corrective procedures. On occasion, the complications cannot be resolved, even after multiple surgeries.

Hundreds of women suffering from mesh injuries have filed vaginal mesh lawsuit claims against Johnson & Johnson, C.R. Bard, and other manufacturers. Many other women will likely follow suit as their implants fail. Below, we’ll introduce some of the serious complications experienced by women who underwent transvaginal placement of mesh for POP and SUI repair. We’ll also describe the measures taken to correct the problems.

Transvaginal Mesh Implant Side Effects

Surgeons have installed pelvic mesh implants to repair hernias since the 1950s. They began using the devices to correct pelvic organ prolapse in the 1970s. Back then, the implants were cut to fit the anatomy of the patient, and installed through incisions made into the abdomen.

It wasn’t until twenty years later that surgeons began to install the devices through the vaginal tissue. The first mesh product designed specifically for SUI repair was approved by the FDA in 1996. The first device designed for POP repair was approved in 2002. Both were soon incorporated into “mesh kits” that included various tools for the installation and anchoring of the devices.

A large percentage of the surgery mesh complications that have resulted in lawsuits are associated with the kits designed after 2002. The FDA has received thousands of complaints detailing a range of side effects, including vaginal bleeding, chronic pain, infections, and exposure of the device in the vaginal canal. This latter circumstance, known as erosion or extrusion, was the most commonly reported vaginal mesh complication. In some patients, it has caused severe pain that has lowered their quality of life.

Many women also reported experiencing bowel and bladder perforations during the placement procedure. These injuries were caused by the tools used to implant the mesh device behind the vaginal wall. According to the FDA, at least two women have died as a result of organ and blood vessel perforations.

Correcting Vaginal Mesh Erosion/Extrusion

Erosion occurs as the implant moves through the vaginal tissue. A portion may eventually become exposed in the vaginal canal, causing infection, pain, and vaginal leakage of urine. In many cases, the exposed device can cause irritation to a man during sex.

If mesh erosion occurs shortly after implantation, some doctors prefer to allow the tissue to fully heal before taking corrective measures. The hope is that scar tissue will form and cover the exposed segment over two or three weeks. If this fails to happen, surgery is performed to remove the implant. In cases where its removal is impossible, the exposed portion is cut away.

Addressing Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are not uncommon following surgery to correct POP and SUI. This is the case regardless of whether the placement of the implant is performed via the vaginal tissue or abdominal incisions. These can usually be resolved with antibiotics.

That said, one of the reported bladder sling surgery complications experienced by women is recurrent UTIs, some of which prove resistant to antibiotics. In such cases, the implant often needs to be removed.

Treating Chronic Pain From Vaginal Mesh Complications

Pain in the vagina, pelvis, back, buttocks, and legs can result from a number of surgical mesh complications. For example, as described earlier, erosion (or extrusion) can result in vaginal pain. Mesh contraction and vaginal shortening – problems reported by the FDA in 2011 – can pose similar results. Infections of the bladder and throughout the urinary tract can cause pain in the pelvis and abdomen.

Sometimes, the pain that surfaces after vaginal placement of mesh occurs because the implant is installed too tightly. In such cases, it must be loosened, which requires surgery. If pain persists past the normal recovery stage, and tension is not the cause, the implant may need to be surgically removed.

If you received a pelvic mesh implant and have suffered pain, bleeding, infection, or erosion, you may be able to file a vaginal mesh lawsuit claim. Contact a transvaginal mesh lawsuit attorney to discuss your case.


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