Despite its severe complications, transvaginal tape surgery continues to ruin women’s health, with many now campaigning for a complete ban.
The procedure, which is used to treat common problems such as stress incontinence, is controversial and much debated. This is essentially because there is not enough information on the long-term effectiveness, benefits and complications of the operation, which involves inserting mesh under the bladder to add extra support.
Although many women have had successful outcomes, others have experienced numerous complications including continued incontinence, infection and pain.
Sling The Mesh, founded by journalist, Kath Samson, is campaigning for a complete ban and a national register of complications. Campaigners include a number of the hundreds of women whose health has been seriously affected following bladder mesh operations.
In 2013, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recognised those concerns when updating their guidance, indicating that using the technically challenging procedure should only be carried out by gynaecologists with special expertise in the surgical management of pelvic organ prolapse.
In 2014, the Scottish Government imposed a total ban on the use of mesh in vaginal procedures.
Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust is investigating the practices of Mr Arunkalaivanan, a consultant urogynaecologist who continued to use synthetic mesh to treat pelvic organ prolapse, despite it being banned by the Trust in 2009.
The Trust has sent letters recalling approximately 200 patients who were treated by Mr Arunkalaivanan. The clinical and medical negligence solicitors at Slater and Gordon are investigating claims against the Trust on behalf of a number of them.
Specifically, there are concerns over whether the mesh was used in the right circumstances and over the level of information patients were given about its use and associated risks.
The decision to use mesh must only be taken after careful consideration of the patient’s clinical condition and after a detailed discussion with the patient so that they may make an informed choice and provide appropriate consent.
Ian Cohen is practice group leader and a medical negligence lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Liverpool.
Laura Bauress is a clinical negligence lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Liverpool.
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