What Does Pelvic Mesh Do, And Why Are Women Suing Over It? – Explainer

Consideration was given for the editing and publication of this post.

When we’re unwell, we usually explore different treatments available. For some women, pelvic meshes hold the hope of relief from serious medical conditions. So, what is transvaginal mesh? Consider checking the linked resource for more details. Or, read on to find out what it does and why women are suing over it. Let’s dive into it.

How Does A Pelvic Mesh Work?

A pelvic mesh is a medical device crafted from absorbable or non-absorbable synthetic, biological, or composite materials. It’s surgically implanted to treat a variety of pelvic disorders. These include:

  • Pelvic prolapse – this occurs when one or more organs in the pelvis, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, protrude into the vagina or, in some cases, the abdominal cavity. The condition may occur after childbirth or a hysterectomy (the removal of the uterus), menopause, or without an identifiable cause.
  • Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) – this is the involuntary leakage of urine due to sudden pressure on the bladder. Muscles and ligaments usually support the bladder in the pelvis. When they weaken or get damaged, leakage can occur. Such weakening is sometimes caused by endometriosis or large uterine fibroids. As a result, simple reflex actions which involve a slight increase in pressure (such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing) can lead to accidental urine loss. Likewise, physical activity (think exercise) can also lead to leakage if these muscles cannot support the bladder.

The pelvic mesh provides additional structural support for weakened or damaged pelvic muscles and ligaments. The mesh is designed to reinforce the pelvic floor, providing a supportive barrier that helps keep organs like the bladder in place.

Though different, these conditions might occur concurrently in the same person; hence, a doctor may carry out the requisite corrective procedures at once. The physician uses a mesh made in the same way, although the surgical operation to rectify each condition varies.

Surgery As A Last Resort

Pelvic meshes are typically inserted through abdominal or vaginal methods. Depending on the patient’s needs, they can work independently or with other surgical treatments. Generally, they provide more durable results than other treatments. But they pose certain risks and side effects (partly why some women are suing, which we’ll discuss in a bit).

Depending on the implantation method, recovery times may vary significantly. You may also experience some mild pain or discomfort. And given the risks, it’s usually recommended as a last resort. Some of the first-line treatments for the conditions above include:

  • Pad usage to reduce sudden pressure from the bladder or rectum by cushioning prolapsed organs.
  • Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.
  • Bladder training helps you adjust your urination schedule and minimize leakage.
  • Hormonal therapy and dietary changes for incontinence.

While these conservative treatments may provide some relief, they don’t always work. As a result, the condition may negatively impact your quality of life. For instance, if the prolapse leads to extreme discomfort or blocks a major or vital organ (such as a kidney or bladder), the doctor may recommend a mesh to provide more reliable and lasting support.

Why Women Are Suing Over Pelvic Mesh

While most women report positive outcomes, some experience serious or life-threatening complications; these include, but are not limited to:

  • Infection – if the mesh moves or shifts, it can lead to infection.
  • Organ or tissue damage – when a pelvic mesh is implanted, the surrounding organs may get damaged.
  • Erosion – occurs when the mesh begins to protrude through the vagina wall or bladder, leading to recurrent infections.
  • Pelvic pain – some women say they experience persistent and severe pain unresponsive to conventional treatments.
  • Over-correction – Unwarranted and excessive tension on the tape can lead to acute or chronic urinary tract blockage.
  • Neuromuscular issues – Prolonged pressure on the nerves may damage to muscles, nerves, and other tissues in the area. As a result, some patients feel acute or chronic pain in their groin, leg, or abdomen.
  • Hematoma – localized blood collection outside a vessel caused by trauma or inflammation after the procedure.
  • Granular tissue formation on the surface of the pelvic sling may cause discomfort or pain.
  • Recurrent prolapse – following the procedure, some women may experience recurrent prolapse as the mesh fails to provide adequate support.

In response to these grave complications and the potential long-term damage, many women have chosen to take legal action. In fact, in 2008, the FDA issued a warning about the potential risks posed by pelvic meshes.

They cautioned against using surgical meshes to treat prolapse and SUI in their statement. Likewise, the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) of Australia released a similar warning in August 2016. Other international regulatory bodies have also sounded the alarm.

Several law firms across the US have been representing women who suffered from implantation. Common claims include:

  • Defective design or manufacturing processes that could lead to serious injuries.
  • Failure to warn of potential risks before patients went under the knife.
  • Medical malpractice by physicians who implanted the device without proper training.
  • Misconduct by the manufacturer for promoting a device that wasn’t properly tested or approved.

In some cases, the women were awarded substantial settlements (out of court) to reflect the emotional, physical, and financial damages they suffered from the implants. In a class action suit involving 20,000 women, the manufacturer of pelvic meshes agreed to pay over $830 million in damages.

Some patients won multi-million verdicts. Case in point, a jury awarded Mary McGinnis $68 after finding the manufacturer liable for her pelvic mesh implantation.

Given that the FDA and other regulatory bodies have warned against its use, many women are standing up to defend their rights. Over 108,000 lawsuits have been filed related to pelvic mesh implants, with settlements reducing the number of pending cases.

Consider The Risks

Before undergoing pelvic mesh surgery, consider all possible risks and talk to your doctor about other treatment options to safeguard your health. Such non-surgical alternatives can help manage SUI and pelvic organ prolapse symptoms.

Also, check with your doctor if you experience unusual pain or discomfort – if you’ve already had a surgical mesh implanted. Your doctor may also recommend regular checkups to monitor your general health.

Seek Legal Help

If you’ve suffered permanent injury or complications from a pelvic mesh implant, get legal assistance ASAP. An attorney can help you determine if you have a potential claim and advise on the right steps to alleviate your pain. Depending on your case, this may imply filing a claim against the manufacturer or doctor.

A pelvic mesh may relieve SUI and pelvic organ prolapse, but the risks involved point to a need for caution. Surgical procedures carry some risk, but if the device causes harm, we can’t downplay the long-term effects. Women who’ve suffered from the adverse effects of pelvic mesh implants have a right to seek legal recourse and get compensation. After all, no one should suffer in silence.