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Stress Urinary Incontinence and Mesh Surgery: Complications

Modern medicine can improve our quality of life in many ways. An increasing number of procedures keep us healthy and active, and new, innovative treatments help alleviate pain and increase independence. Even issues that frequently plague women, like stress urinary incontinence (SUI), are easily and quickly corrected surgically. Unfortunately, when transvaginal mesh is used to treat SUI, the original symptoms may return, along with a host of new complications.

What Is Stress Urinary Incontinence?

After having children, many women experience urinary leakage when coughing, laughing, or lifting. Sometimes this problem appears after a hysterectomy, or it may simply run in your family. The muscles around the urinary tract become weak and unable to control the flow of urine, leading to embarrassing and inconvenient accidents. This is known as stress urinary incontinence, or SUI. It can be treated with medication, lifestyle change, or more commonly, transvaginal mesh surgery.

What Is Transvaginal Mesh and Why Is It Used in SUI?

Surgical mesh has been successfully used for decades in hernia repair. The mesh is a small, flexible screen that’s often made of plastic materials. More recently, mesh has been used in the pelvic area to help support fallen organs, like the bladder, which can cause SUI. Mesh can be used as a sling for the bladder itself, or it can be used to support both the urethra and bladder opening. Each surgery requires incisions in the vagina, abdomen, or both. Depending on the type of surgery that’s performed, the patient may spend a few hours to a few days in the hospital. Complete recovery for each procedure takes about six weeks.

Complications of Mesh Surgery

Unfortunately, there have been many problems reported with tranvaginal mesh used in the treatment of SUI. The FDA acknowledges that these adverse reactions are not rare.

The most common complication related to transvaginal mesh is erosion. This occurs when the mesh moves into surrounding organs or vaginal tissues. Synthetic mesh can shrink, harden, or crack, perforating the vaginal tissues, bowels, bladder, and urethra. Other common complications related to transvaginal mesh failure include:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Difficulties with sexual intercourse
  • Puncture of nearby organs
  • Ongoing or repeated vaginal or urinary infections

Surgery to correct defective mesh can be both difficult and dangerous. Revision surgery, or complete mesh removal, is often required. Sometimes several visits to the operating table are necessary to completely remove the surgical mesh. These revision surgeries bring additional risks, such as hemorrhage, blood clots, scarring, and additional tissue damage.

The Next Steps for Problems with Mesh Surgery

A visit to your doctor will help you determine whether mesh was used in your corrective surgery for stress urinary incontinence. In addition, an examination of your medical record will reveal the exact manufacturer and model of the mesh that’s in your body. Take special note of this information, as certain types of mesh are more likely to cause harm than others. If you being to experience symptoms related to mesh erosion, you should discuss your treatment options with your doctor without delay.

It probably seems unfair that after the pain and inconvenience of mesh surgery for stress urinary incontinence, it sometimes fails. Mesh makers, like Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific, marketed their mesh as safe and effective, only to pull their products off the shelves for repeated problems. Corrective surgery can be costly, both financially and mentally. As a result, numerous lawsuits continue to be filed against these mesh manufacturers and others. An attorney who specializes in medical device liability cases will be able to discuss our legal options with you.