Mesh implants that are currently used to treat pelvic organ prolapse should be banned in England, says the health watchdog NICE.
In April (2017) it was reported that more than 800 UK women are taking legal action against the NHS and the makers of vaginal mesh implants because they can cause nerve damage and leave women in permanent pain, unable to walk, work or have intercourse.
About one in 11 women have experienced problems after a vaginal mesh implant operation and more than 92,000 women (between April 2007 and March 2015) have had vaginal mesh implants in England, according to NHS data from the Hospital Episodes Statistics.
Now, according to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show, new NICE guidelines will say that the mesh implants should only be used for research and routine operations should be stopped.
Susan Liver, Clinical Negligence specialist and a partner at Birchall Blackburn Law, says: “We’re supporting a number of clients who have contacted us after mesh implant surgery. In most of the cases the medical advice given to the patient by surgeons has been inadequate and women have gone on to suffer life changing injuries. Many of the women we are trying to help were not clearly told about the risks. NICE’s recommended ban on vaginal mesh implants has come far too late.”
For seven years the University of Oxford’s Professor Carl Heneghan has been monitoring the use of the mesh implants and calls it a “catastrophe”. He now wants a registry for everyone who has been treated with the implants so that their impact can be fully understood.
What is a vaginal mesh?
A vaginal mesh is a plastic mesh implant made of polypropylene, which is used to ease incontinence and to support organs such as the vagina, uterus, bowel, bladder or urethra which have prolapsed after childbirth.
There are as many as 100 types of vaginal mesh implants being used in the UK at the moment.
They are a permanent implant. According to the US regulatory body, the Food and Drug Administration, once the mesh is implanted it is very difficult to remove. Sometimes it is impossible.
In 2014 the Scottish government requested a suspension of the use of mesh implants by the NHS in Scotland, pending a safety review. The suspension was called for after members of the Scottish Mesh Survivors campaign told a Scottish Government committee of the life-changing side effects they had suffered. The review in Scotland said they should not be routinely used for pelvic organ prolapse.
The use of vaginal mesh to treat urinary incontinence is not mentioned in the draft NICE guidelines.