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Transvaginal Mesh Hardening Symptoms and Diagnosis

Surgical mesh has been in widespread use since the 1950s when it became popular in hernia repair surgery. More recently, mesh has been used to treat women suffering from stress urinary incontinence (SUI) or pelvic organ prolapse (POP).  During the surgery, transvaginal mesh is inserted through incisions in the vagina. The mesh itself resembles a flexible patch of screen, is made of plastic-like materials, and is meant to support weakened areas in the body.

Transvaginal mesh surgery is one of the most popular procedures performed on women who have had children or gained weight. Although there have been many successful transvaginal mesh procedures performed, the mesh itself has been linked to a number of serious and painful complications. Below, you’ll find information about the symptoms and diagnosis of a common complication known as “mesh hardening.”

What Is Mesh Hardening?

A number of manufacturers produce transvaginal mesh devices. The plastic materials these devices are made of can often become hard and brittle after surgery. As a result, the hardened mesh can break apart into sharp mesh fragments that cut surrounding tissue and perforate nearby organs. When mesh abnormally hardens, especially in the vaginal walls where muscles constantly expand and contract, pain, infection, tissue destruction, and nerve damage may occur as a result.

The Symptoms of Mesh Hardening

Common symptoms of mesh hardening include:

  • Pelvic and vaginal pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain or difficult urination
  • Foul smelling vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Repeated vaginal infections

If symptoms persist and are left untreated, infection can spread throughout the body, causing fatigue, fever, chills, and eventually shutting down other organ systems. In addition, hardened mesh that breaks into sharp mesh fragments can puncture the vaginal wall, the bladder, or the bowel.

How Is Mesh Hardening Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing the symptoms of mesh complications, you should review your medical records to determine the type and brand of transvaginal mesh you’ve received. Some types of mesh have higher failure rates than others. Due to the reported complications, several manufacturers, including Johnson & Johnson, have stopped producing their mesh products. In order to reach a diagnosis, your doctor may perform the following exams or tests:

  • Complete pelvic exam
  • Rectal exam for fistula (an abnormal opening between vagina and rectum)
  • Pap smear
  • Blood testing
  • Ultrasound or CT scans for possible damage to surrounding organs

Common Treatment Options

When mesh hardens in the vagina it is often surgically removed to correct pain, sexual dysfunction, and other problems. If the vaginal walls, rectum, or other organs were damaged by the mesh, they will have to be repaired through surgery. Antibiotic therapy is initiated when necessary to prevent infection. Other surgical options, including replacing the mesh with an improved model, might be considered to treat the symptoms SUI and POP. The original complaints of urinary leakage, pelvic pressure, and pain are likely to return following the removal of transvaginal surgical mesh.

Have Additional Questions?

Transvaginal mesh hardening can be physically and emotionally draining. The thought of additional surgery may be frightening to many patients. As a result, some patients may delay seeking treatment because they fear the possibility of additional pain, hospitalization, expenses, and recovery time from a repeated surgery. However, it’s important to note that the manufacturer of the mesh or doctor who performed the surgery may be responsible for any expenses caused by defective mesh or incorrect surgical placement. An attorney will be able to discuss your legal options with you.