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Urinary Tract Infections and Transvaginal Mesh: What You Need to Know

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, can be an uncomfortable part of life, especially for women. UTIs happen for a variety of reasons, but should never be accepted as a normal occurrence. For instance, women who have had transvaginal mesh (TV mesh) surgery for treatment of stress urinary leakage or weakened pelvic muscles may experience frequent urinary tract infections as a result of mesh complications.

 Do I Have a Urinary Tract Infection?

Infections of the urinary tract can cause problems in the kidneys, or anywhere farther down the line, including the ureters, bladder, and urethra – the tube where urine leaves the body.  At least in the beginning, however, UTIs usually involve only the urethra and bladder. The symptoms of UTI are hard to ignore and can range from mildly annoying to painfully severe.

Signs and symptoms of lower UTI include:

  • Generalized pelvic pain
  • Blood in the urine, with colors ranging from red to dark brown
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pain during urination
  • Urgency, or the frequent “need to go”
  • Lower abdominal pain

When untreated, infection in the lower urinary tract can travel upwards to the kidneys. Symptoms of kidney infection include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Side or back pain

Since the kidneys’ main function is to clear harmful toxins from the body, avoiding kidney failure with prompt treatment of any UTI is essential.

The Causes of UTI

Infections in the urinary tract can happen easily and frequently in women. Often, bacterial contamination occurs simply because the urethra is very close to the vagina and the anus. Usage of diaphragms or catheters can also introduce organisms into the area, leading to infection. Blockage of any kind that results in urinary retention can also cause UTI.

Recently, however, urinary tract infections have been linked to the transvaginal mesh used in corrective pelvic surgeries. Women who have had TV mesh implanted for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence (SUI) or pelvic organ prolapse (POP) have reported UTI as a common complication.

How Can TV Mesh Cause UTI?

Surgical mesh, while proven safe and effective in hernia repair, is often problematic in transvaginal surgery. Not extensively tested for treatment of SUI and POP, transvaginal mesh can become brittle and crack in the body, slicing nearby organs (perforation). In cases of mesh erosion, mesh may also move from where it was implanted to the lower urinary tract.

Frequent urinary tract infections may indicate that mesh erosion or perforation has occurred. Any damage to the bladder or urethra can be confirmed by tests such as a CT scan, X-ray, or cystoscopy.

Treatments Options for UTI Caused by TV Mesh

Urinary tract infections are usually treated with oral antibiotics. If TV mesh caused structural damage to the urinary tract, removal will be required, along with the appropriate organ repair. General anesthetic is usually used in this type of surgery. Stent placement in the ureters – channels that connect the kidneys and the bladder – may be necessary. In some cases, catheters are required to temporarily drain urine. Although a lengthy hospital stay is usually not necessary, complete recovery can be difficult and take as long as 6 months.

Next Steps

The doctor’s office is the first stop in treating a recurring UTI. In addition to treating the infection, finding its cause is of equal importance. A review of your medical record can confirm if transvaginal mesh is in your body, and if so, the brand and model of the mesh. This information is important because certain meshes are reportedly defective.

Certain health advocate groups have suggested that all synthetic mesh be banned in transvaginal surgeries, citing the risks of use significantly outweigh any benefit. If your recurring UTI is due to defective mesh, an attorney that specializes in product liability cases will be able to discuss your legal options with you.