In the late 1990s, an innovative treatment for stress incontinence came on to the scene - a synthetic sling placed under the urethra designed to provide support. Within 10 years, 'the sling' became the most frequently performed surgery used to treat incontinence. It was championed for the reduced risk of blood loss and a shorter recovery time.

Following the success of the 'sling', doctors and manufacturers looked to develop a similar treatment for vaginal prolapse. This is a common condition suffered by women, usually after childbirth, whereby the organs fall down and can protrude through the vagina. The product they came up with is now known as 'vaginal mesh' or 'transvaginal tape', which is essentially a sheet of mesh placed under the bladder or in front of the bowel to stop prolapse and provide support. It is also believed to help with incontinence.

As with the mid-urethral sling, short term trials found the mesh to be highly effective and several types of mesh implants were placed on the European market.

The mesh was designed to be a permanent solution and it was never intended or designed to be removed.

Despite initial optimism, in recent years, thousands of women who have had a mesh implant have complained of a number of crippling complications, including:

  1. Mesh exposure and erosion;
  2. Vaginal scarring;
  3. Temporary and long-term pain in the pelvic area, buttocks and/or legs;
  4. Damage to the bladder or urethra;
  5. Overactive bladder;
  6. Urinary retention;
  7. Intimacy problems;
  8. Irregular vaginal bleeding; and
  9. Infection.

Given the damage can be life changing and sometimes irreversible, campaign groups such as Sling the Mesh, have argued that the tape should be banned - https://slingthemesh.wordpress.com/ Coverage of the issue has also been shown on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme and the controversy led to a temporary halt on the use of the mesh amid safety concerns.

However, following investigations, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHPRA) have found that if the tape is implanted correctly, it is safe and can be used. Indeed, health watchdog NICE have recommended that vaginal mesh implants can be once again offered on the NHS, provided certain conditions are met.

Clearly however there is still a difference in opinion, with studies suggesting that as many as 1 in 10 patients experience complications and symptoms including chronic pain, difficulty walking and sexual problems.

Indeed, thousands of women suffering with debilitating symptoms are now questioning whether their implant was carried out to a sufficient standard and whether they were given the appropriate advice before going ahead with the treatment, including counselling of the potential complications and the treatment’s permanency.

For those women who have opted to have the implant removed, the difficulties haven't ended. The latest article from the BBC has reported that dozens of women who thought that they were having a complete mesh removal, have discovered that material has been left behind. Reports suggest that in some cases this may be due to a confusion over terminology. In some instances, partial removal of the tape was referred to by surgeons as a "full vaginal removal". We understand that Baroness Cumberledge, who is leading a government review into TVT, is looking at this issue. In any event, complete removal may not be possible to do safely. Mesh removal procedures carry a high risk of organ and nerve damage. Even after removal, symptoms may persist or worsen.

We are currently investigating a number of TVH and TVT claims on behalf of women who are suffering at the hands of their mesh implant. If you, or a loved one, have any concerns following a mesh procedure, we are more than happy to have a confidential, free chat with you.

Some complications have been known to only show up some years after the original mesh surgery. If this has happened to you, it may be that the time limit for making a TVH or TVT claim has not expired.

To find out whether we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact Jane Williams on 0116 248 1105 or 079 7744 6191, or email Jane.williams@freeths.co.uk