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Transvaginal Mesh Infection Symptoms and Diagnosis

Surgical mesh is a medical device that’s used as a means of support in different areas of the body.  The mesh is often made of synthetic plastic-like materials, and is produced by several companies. Transvaginal mesh – a popular form of surgical mesh – is implanted through the vaginal wall and is used to prevent stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse by strengthening the pelvic muscles. However, in recent years the use of transvaginal mesh has been linked to a number of dangerous and painful complications, including mesh infection.

Why Is Mesh in My Body?

For women, mesh is often used in cases of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Pressure, pain, and urinary leakage usually lead women to seek medical help with these conditions. Although mesh implantation is just one treatment option, the procedure is still a popular choice in the management of both POP and SUI. During the surgery, transvaginal mesh is placed directly through the vagina itself to strengthen the pelvis. If you’ve had surgery to strengthen areas in your pelvic floor, your doctor will be able to confirm whether you have transvaginal mesh in your body.

What’s the Problem with Transvaginal Mesh?

Although many successful surgeries using mesh have been performed, there are also times when it fails. Mesh erosion, or the deterioration of the implant, is one of the most commonly reported complications. In many cases, the mesh becomes brittle and breaks apart, creating sharp mesh fragments that can easily slice into the bladder or rectum. Fluid or feces can then enter the abdominal cavity and cause life-threatening infections and peritonitis – inflammation of the inner wall of the abdomen. Organ damage and infection can also occur as a direct result of errors made during the implantation surgery.

Common Symptoms of Mesh Infection

It has been reported that problems with transvaginal mesh usually appear within one year after surgery.  Studies indicate that common symptoms reported by patients suffering infections related to transvaginal mesh include:

  • Pelvic pressure
  • Generalized pain in the pelvic area
  • Foul smelling vaginal discharge which may or may not be bloody
  • Sensation of “poking” in the vagina

Untreated pelvic infections can spread throughout the body, resulting in fever, chills, and weakness. Therefore, it’s important for patients to promptly report any symptoms of mesh erosion or infection to their physician.

Getting an Accurate Diagnosis

If you or your doctor suspects you may be suffering from a mesh infection, the following tests may be necessary to get an accurate diagnosis:

  • A thorough pelvic exam
  • Pap smear for detection of organisms causing infection
  • Blood tests for evidence of larger scale infection
  • Ultrasound of pelvic organs
  • Cystography (bladder exam)
  • Colonoscopy (exam of rectum and colon)

What are the Treatments for Mesh Infection?

Infection from transvaginal mesh is treated according to the particular bacteria present and the organs that have been damaged.  Antibiotic treatment is initiated and usually removal of part or all the mesh is performed. Since the mesh was designed so that tissue would grow through it, it can be very difficult to remove. In many cases, more than one surgery may be necessary. After the mesh is taken out, the vagina walls are re-sewn, and any other damaged organs repaired.

Further Information

The FDA has issued warnings regarding the dangerous associated with transvaginal mesh products. Mesh manufacturers, such as Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific, have been involved in lawsuits over injuries caused by mesh failure. In addition, surgeons who improperly perform mesh surgeries may be held liable for any injuries or infections that result. In many cases, mesh surgery wasn’t the best treatment option and probably shouldn’t have been performed at all. Patients who have experienced a mesh infection should consult with an attorney to learn more about their legal options.