In July 2018 ‘high vigilance restrictions’ were placed on the use of transvaginal mesh to treat stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse in women. These restrictions were introduced due to the number of women reporting complications, which include, but are not limited to, vaginal pain, vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge and pain during intercourse. Sometimes simply removing the vaginal mesh can resolve symptoms but for many women, the mesh cannot be removed and their symptoms continue long term.
The restrictions were extended in March 2019 but a month later, in April 2019, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new guidelines which suggest that vaginal mesh surgery can be re-introduced for the purposes of research, providing it is performed at specialist medical facilities and by specialist surgeons.
The new guidelines do state that all women considering the procedure should be told about all of the possible complications and that such surgery should only be offered to women who have tried non-surgical treatment which has failed.
However, campaigners such as ‘Sling the Mesh’ are understandably concerned about the new NICE guidelines and the implications this could have for the women who do decide to proceed with vaginal mesh surgery. The concern is that this is a slippery slope and over time more and more vaginal mesh surgeries will be performed, despite the known risks which often have devastating consequences.
Emily Hartland, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “We act for a number of women who have suffered complications following vaginal mesh surgery. The majority of these women either did not require this surgery, having not been advised to try conservative treatment such as pelvic floor exercises in the first instance, or were not warned of the possible risks of such surgery. We have seen first-hand how devastating the complications can be and can only hope that the new NICE guidelines do not result in a significant increase in vaginal mesh surgeries.”