Mesh implants are used to treat prolapse, stress incontinence and hernias. It is a permanent plastic implant, used to support weakened tissue but it can fragment, twist, degrade or shrink to slice into nerves, tissue and organs. The plastic material can cause autoimmune diseases and trigger allergic reactions including psoriasis, fibromyalgia, IBS, Lichens Schelorsis, lupus, food allergies and intolerances. Removing it is major surgery. Some women improve, some are worse and some no different. See Completed-Survey-Results-Jan-2020
Mesh was rushed to market using the flimsiest of evidence. New products continue to be approved using a flawed medical device approval system known as equivalence. Long term complications were never captured globally because doctors only asked women if the operation had worked. This means a women could show up in a consulting room walking with sticks, in chronic pain, lost sex life, can no longer work due to pain, suffering constant infections , yet she will be logged as a success because her incontinence or prolapse is fixed. See this article how mesh became a 4 letter word by Jonathan Gornall. BMJ-article-on-mesh-COIs
Petersen2020_Article_NecessaryDurationOfFollow-upTo Hernia Mesh Hernia mesh paper says that without long term follow up, the majority of hernia mesh complications are missed making it look like it is a good treatment option, when in fact patients become more at risk of developing complications as each year passes.
SLING THE MESH SURVEY 2020 reveals a long list of symptoms suffered by patients after having a mesh implant. The top five most common complications experienced were painful to walk, urinary urgency, painful to sit, severe fatigue and IBS bloating. These were followed by chronic hip and leg pain, discomfort during sex, brain fog, urinary frequency and anxiety.
House of Lords second reading of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill. Baroness Cumberlege talks on the need to step up patient safety and warns the Government against ignoring her report. Hansard Link
Vaginal mesh use is down by a third in Canada
NHS Mesh Sub Registry GroupMesh Sub Registry group
BAUS Podcast on what the scathing Cumberlege Report means for surgeons. Apology needed for how the healthcare community have failed and harmed women.
Reactions to First Do No Harm Baroness Cumberlege Review
BSUG letter to members LETTER TO RCOG AND BSUG MEMBERS First Do No Harm
Sling The Mesh Response: Justice will only be done when all 9 key recommendations are implemented. Thousands of women and their families have had their lives ripped apart. All of this could have been avoided if proper systems were in place to pick problems up sooner and if medics had listened instead of going into institutional denial for decades. To see the 9 key recommendations read the Press Release here: IMMDS Review report announcement FINAL
RESPONSES TO THE CUMBERLEGE REPORT:
Independent_08-07-2020_1ST_p1 Front page
The results of the two year review into mesh by the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review is published on July 8, 2020. IMMDS Review report announcement FINAL
MASTER Trial into men’s mesh slings, for men suffering incontinence after prostate cancer, does not mention the risk of mesh complications.
Surgeons in trial which includes mesh. Why? A PURSUIT Trial with Marcus Drake into incontinence remedies is comparing bulking injections to surgery, including mesh implants. Some of the authors taking part are known for being pro mesh protagonists.
Two days after MHRA issue new guidance saying mesh for incontinence is safe to use because it has a CE mark, their report is taken down. Their web link said a registry will be set up to log mesh complications, but our understanding is that this is not possible to link in to the MHRA reports which in our opinion renders it useless. Surgeons have had since 1997 to do this but never bothered. In addition, the MHRA have taken its flawed York Report offline which was relied on to claim mesh risk was only 1-3%
May 2020: Scottish women to be offered £1,000 for well being. It is not compensation for any perceived wrong doing by the NHS
Baroness Cumberlege announces she will publish the results of the long awaited mesh review in July. The review has taken two years.
April 2020: The independent review into mesh, which began in July 2018, is postponed due to coronavirus
March 2020: Canadian women to receive a share of $21.5 million from J&J
January 30: In California J&J ordered to pay $344 million for its misleading marketing of mesh products. Court paperwork here See p 10-13 for admissions by J&J releasing info on loss of sex life “would kill us”, didn’t want to release info on mesh removal for fear of “digging own grave” and avoided using databases to capture complications so FDA didn’t learn of negative outcomes and so their products did not look as appealing as those of competitors who were not using databases either.
The story covered in Medical Plastics News
January 15: BBC cover the hernia mesh scandal. More than 100 different hernia mesh used in NHS and none have clinical trial evidence to back it up
January 2: First Bard hernia mesh trial due to begin in May
December 12: New Zealand publishes a Mesh Restorative Justice report after talking to 600 patients irreversibly harmed by surgical mesh implants used to treat incontinence, prolapse or hernia. Here is the response from NZ campaigners
December 4: The BMJ launch a global campaign to stamp out conflicts of interest in medicine on the back of the pelvic mesh scandal
November 21: Australian women win landmark case against Johnson & Johnson. They were accused of launching a “tidal wave” of aggressive promotion at doctors, marketing the devices as cheap, simple to insert, and a relatively risk-free way to boost profits.
October 22: The results of around 500 clinical trials run by NHS Trusts remain unreported, costing over £250 million in research waste.
October 14: Queen’s Speech heralds Brexit as an opportunity for Britain to become a world leader in innovation. In other words, drugs and devices that have not ben tested in humans. Innovative or new does not mean good! It simply means new. US want access to NHS in post-Brexit deal.
October 8: The UK’s independent review into vaginal mesh is set to publish in March 2020
September 22: Mesh is like a train with few stops and insufficient evidence to prove long term risks or benefits. International Society FIGO release position statement.
August 16: Snapshot survey of 16 hospitals shows that two hospitals defied the suspension and carried on using it. SEE 1207 2019-BJOG__An_International_Journal_of_Obstetrics_&_Gynaecology
August 8: Paper shows if women are given fully informed consent on risks vs benefits they would never choose mesh surgery
July 31: Taiwan calls for ban on vaginal mesh
July 29: Global plastics expert says plastic should not be implanted into humans. Sky News
Opinion piece from Charlotte Lomas Farley
July 16: HQIP announce plans for a database to log complications when mesh is used again..It is still not robust enough to capture the data on suffering. HQIP Interim-Surgical-Mesh-Database-Feasibility-Report-FINAL
June 28: Former chief of the FDA, Just two months after leaving his job of regulating medicines and devices, joins global drug giant Pfizer to help them get approval for their products. And so the revolving door continues…
June 14: NZ campaigners told a mesh register to track complications is too expensive
May 31: Hernia mesh complication risk is as high as 37%
May 28: MP Owen Smith gives evidence to the Baroness Cumberlege review. Far too many women, far too young and with conditions that didn’t really require this degree of intervention were given this operation.
May 25: Mesh has been used in the UK during the suspension. A total of 16 mesh slings and 164 suprapubic slings which could be either mesh or non mesh Surgery for urogynaecological prolapse or SUI using tape or mesh M12 suppressed (9)
May 16: Progress update from the UK mesh safety review by Baroness Cumberlege who says mesh isn’t coming back any time soon. “I have been clear that because the conditions required to lift the pause have not yet been met, and that it will clearly be some time before they are, for now and the foreseeable future mesh should not be used to treat stress urinary incontinence either in the NHS or the independent sector. I am pleased that NHS England has reminded NHS Trusts that the pause remains in place.”
May 3: FDA closes a secret filing system that for 20 yrs allowed medical giants to hide reports of patient harm.
May 2: Medical device director steps down from the MHRA amid vaginal mesh crisis,
April 22: J&J is ordered to pay a fine of $9.9 million or face trial for failing to warn of serious risk in its instructions for mesh kits. Fine issued by Washington Attorney General. See the You Tube annoncement.
April 20: India considers stopping pelvic mesh
April 16: The FDA immediately ban vaginal prolapse mesh in USA saying benefits do not outweigh risks.
April 8: STM issue stark warning to NHS Trusts after taking legal advice on the use of mesh.
April 2: Long awaited NICE guidelines publish. Sling The Mesh is deeply disappointed that, nothing has changed since 2003 and are so weak they pave the way for women of tomorrow to be harmed.
Professor Carl Heneghan says “Campaigners fear the evidence is untrustworthy, biased and too low quality to inform decision making.”
March 15: FDA issue press statement saying implant materials can cause auto immune reactions.
March 7: Mesh manufacturer Bard (BD) voluntarily withdraws all its urogynae mesh from the UK market.
March 1: Scientific community accepts for the first time that the plastic of mesh implants can act as an adjuvant for auto immune disease and allergies.
Feb 28: House of Lords debate on steps being taken in the UK to improve safety of medicines and devices.
Feb 12: Should vaginal mesh be pulled off the American market asks the FDA.
Feb 12: MP Owen Smith leads a Commons debate on toughening up medical implant regulations.
Jan 23: Surgeon Mohammed Abdel Fatteh of Aberdeen took £100K from a mesh maker but forgot to declare it when writing a study involving a mesh made by them. Abdel-Fatteh spoke at this heavily industry influenced conference in December 2018 where he said the mesh story was an emotional debate led by journalists and MPs. We say that doctors who take money from industry are a blot on medicine’s integrity.
Jan 1: Govt announce plans for better access to physiotherapy for the 1 in 3 mums who suffer incontinence after giving birth.
December 20: The UK wide safety review into mesh. Evidence from all parties is published online on the IMMDS website
December 19: Australia announce first specialist treatment centre to open in 2019
December 18: Evidence presented to the UK wide mesh safety review, led by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, will be published on its website this week
December 13: France issues patient safety monitoring alert for mesh. Meeting to be held on Jan 22
November 27: Australia surgical mesh is raised from from medium to high risk by the TGA Therapeutic Goods Administration
October 26: A Scottish Govt report into mesh implants failed women because it had potential conflicts of interest that were never declared or discussed. The whole report was “ill-conceived, thoughtlessly structured and poorly executed.”
The original Scottish Mesh Report was expected to take six to 12 months. Ultimately it lasted almost three years and, just weeks before it was published in May 2017, three members resigned and branded it a whitewash after key warnings about safety were moved / hidden in the appendices.
October 23, 2018: The world is waking up to the fact there needs to be more transparency and regulation in clinical trials. House of Commons Research Integrity meeting
October 18: BSUG release data that shows TVT mesh has a 15% risk of injuries from the operation alone. That is without taking into consideration the life changing complications we see every day on the Sling The Mesh support page. Yet the BSUG database does not include data on women suffering new chronic pain, UTI, loss of sex life. All they use is form PG-1 which focuses on this – how many Tena Lady pads do you use?
October 11: The BMJ publish a damning article on how mesh was introduced based only on marketing literature from the mesh makers. There was no shortage of warnings in 2003, but the mesh genie was already out of the bottle and being promoted by manufacturers. By 2002-03 over 4,000 TVT and TOT operations a year were being carried out in England and no registry of procedures was in sight. See NICE 2003 guidance here
October 10: Australian Government issue a national apology to women affected by the mesh implant disaster
October 9: NICE issue draft guidelines on mesh use for incontinence and prolapse but campaigners say in the Cambs Times that it is too little too late and do not go far enough to protect women. After 15 years of harm they do not say much different to what was advised in 2003.
September 21: Oxford publish a paper that blames mesh pain on women suffering anxiety about mesh issues.
September 16: Dubai Health Minister withdraws transvaginal mesh
September 12: Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Catherine Calderwood puts out a statement on mesh suspension.
September 12: All medical trials should be logged onto a new European tracking system. Along with sponsors. Pending trials should be logged too. The SIMS mesh mini sling trial at Aberdeen University is not on it.
September 6: The Scotsman reports that Eileen Baxter, 75, dies of multiple organ failure, sepsis, perforation of her bowel from an abdominal prolapse mesh, the one surgeons say is safe to use. Vaginally inserted prolapse mesh was banned in December 2017 because NICE guidelines say the risks are too high. Yet it is the same polypropylene plastic mesh implant, supporting the same organs, sitting in the same vaginal vault once implanted. All prolapse mesh must be banned.
August 22: NHS consultation on how women with prolapse or incontinence should be treated in the future.
August 21: Scottish Government are called to uphold the mesh suspension amid criticism for allowing changes to an “independent” report into the plastic implants, made to downplay mesh risk.
July 24 Vaginal mesh is suspended in Southern Ireland
July 23: NHS England sends out advice to hospital medical directors and surgeons on the mesh suspension in three documents.
July 17: BSUG publishes its audit from 2014. It took four years to come up with a dataset that is short term, only asks one question, does not capture pain, mesh erosion, constant urinary tract infections and is thus seriously flawed.
July 12: A new newsletter is published by Canadian surgeon Robert Bendavid, outlining the risks of Hernia Mesh
July 11: The British Pain Society put out a statement on the effect on women of suffering mesh implant pain. British Pain Society press release
July 3 The Baroness Cumberlege Review into Mesh, Sodium Valproate and Primodos begins today in London. Follow this link for other dates around England..
June 18-24 World Continence Week. Here at Sling The Mesh our message is loud and clear. Please tell your friends, mums, partners, sisters, aunties and work colleagues to seek treatment. BUT please do not be too quick to go under the knife for a solution. Try physiotherapy or specially designed intimate trainers to restore the core before considering surgery and fully research the risks of mesh implants also known as tape, slings, bands, TVT, TVTO or TOT. To find out more visit our Sling The Mesh Natural Solutions Facebook page.
June 12: Canadian professor says large scale studies needed into the link between surgical mesh and auto immune diseases.
June 7: Plastic Magazine for Europe reports there is no such thing as a medical grade polymer. Manufacturers decide for themselves. A bit like marking your own exam papers.
June 1: Milestone for Scottish campaigners as mesh manufacturers fail in their bid to get mesh court cases thrown out.
May 21: Australia bring out new patient info leaflets putting mesh surgery as the final option. They say mesh can often not be fully removed, can cause mental and emotional distress, pain is difficult to treat and women can lose their sex lives. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare say there needs to be better data collection surrounding mesh problems and better pre operative information for women.
May 18: Cambs Times wins the Making A Difference Award for Sling The Mesh campaign.
May 17 Guardian journalist Hannah Devlin wins Science Writer of the Year award for her story about 1 in 15 vaginal meshes need removing because of complications.
May 14 CBS 60 Minutes releases a documentary showing plastic surgical mesh should never be implanted into humans because it’s unstable material.
May 13 Male mesh slings are trialled in the UK for cancer patients suffering SUI after a prostatectomy. Previous research says they only work for 6 in 10 men. Sling The Mesh says men, who have already suffered the emotional trauma of cancer, and a prostatectomy should not be then exposed to the risk of a mesh implant which can cause life altering, chronic pain..
May 11: Mesh removal surgeon Surgeon Suzy Elneil wins a BBC One Show Healthcare award
May 10 Seven questions on pelvic and hernia mesh to Government from Lord Phillip Hunt
May 1 Global Mesh Awareness Day.
April 19 Emma Hardy MP leads a three hour debate on surgical mesh in the House of Commons main chamber..
April 17 The Government release its mesh audit and says it is “experimental” data. What does this mean?!
In terms of data analysis, the term experimental means based on untested ideas or techniques. In other words they did not validate the data. This is done by taking a subset of patients and checking the digital with their medical notes to assess the error rate – this could have also generated answers to many other questions.
MP Owen Smith says half of women who need help end up at outpatient clinics suffering complications. and a third end up in trauma clinics.
An overview of the findings are in this report by Professor Carl Heneghan of Oxford University.
March 28 Australian senate inquiry presents its report. Senator Derryn Hinch said: “This is one of the greatest medical scandals of our history.
“Mesh is a torture device. Women have suffered a physical and mental breakdown from mesh. Tragically, painfully, dangerously.” mesh destroys the life of women, their partners and families.
“One women said I can’t believe I went for minor day surgery and am now disabled.” The full copy of what was said is here in this link.
Sling The Mesh reaction to the Australian senate inquiry:
March 23 Sling The Mesh releases a documentary made by University media student journalists
March 8 An interesting set of answers recorded in Hansard to 8 questions on mesh by MP Emma Hardy.
March 1 The 4 corners of the UK are represented in a meeting with Lord James O’Shaughnessy at the Dept of Health. Lord O’Shaugnessy promises to get to the bottom and the real picture of the mesh implant disaster.
Feb 22 House of Lords debate Govt review into three women’s health disasters of Primodos, valproate and mesh implants.
Sling The Mesh says all women who have had mesh are a ticking time bomb. It can take yeas for problems to cut in. One women on our group had it slice through her urethra after 18 years. Average time for problems to begin is three to four years after implantation. Jeremy Hunt says the review will not go into the science of mesh yet this is where the problem lies. Most studies do not use quality of life questionnaires that pick up the devastation of pain, lost sex lives or constant urinary infections (cysitits) . Studies concentrate on if the mesh has “cured” the problem of prolapse or incontinence.
Many studies are short term or they compare mesh to mesh – so of course mesh will come out as a favourable option! Trials should compare mesh to the old fashioned natural tissue repairs.
Additionally many trials have low numbers. One about to be published looks at the outcomes of just 52 women. For our own survey see here
Feb 21 The Government announce a review into three women’s health scandals, mesh, Primodos and valproate, over seen by Baroness Cumberlege. “We are delighted that the Government has announced a review into Mesh, Primodos and Valproate. but also deeply saddened that so many women’s and families lives have been shattered by medical devices and drugs that were never tested on humans before being released en masse to women globally. We were the human guinea pigs. These are three huge women’s health disasters. The people who benefited most were the share holders and big CEOs.”
MP Emma Hardy said in the House: “It’s not just about the training I believe the product itself that is faulty.” Sling The Mesh and campaigners globally agree.
Sling the Mesh founder Kath Sansom said: “If a woman has had a good outcome it is only “for now ” Any woman who has had mesh is a ticking time bomb as the product can shrink or twist years down the line. No amount of surgeon training can counteract that”
“It is wrong that women have had to fight for YEARS to get their voices heard, often being dismissed as mad, hysterical or a minority suffering. Had men been hurt by drugs or implants on this scale there would be an outcry. Instead we have been left to suffer in silence. Every woman affected by Primodos, Valproate or mesh implants have suffered personal tragedies that can never be compensated for.”
OWEN SMITH – Commenting on the news, Chair of the APPG on Surgical Mesh Implants, Owen Smith, said:“I am delighted that the government has listened to our concerns about the safety of mesh devices and has agreed to conduct this review. Lessons must be learned from the awful complications many women have experienced since undergoing mesh surgery and proper processes must be put in place to stop this happening in the future.
“The mesh scandal shows what can go wrong when devices are aggressively marketed to doctors and then used in patients for whom they were unsuited or unnecessary. Mesh devices should be seen against that history of medicalisation and miss-selling and should be subject to the most stringent clinical trials before being deployed in surgery.
“The news of a prospective registry is also hugely welcome, and is one of the key things we’ve been asking for. I’m pleased that the government has listened and this registry, together with the recently announced retrospective audit currently being undertaken, will provide us with a better understanding of problems related to mesh.”
“It is a shame however that NICE is still unable or unwilling to bring forward its review into the safety and efficacy of Mesh and that the Government will not suspend Mesh until the reviews have been undertaken, as has happened in New Zealand.”
So far it has only been tested on chicken embryos. It will add oestrogen, known to increase risk of endometrial cancer. Following the PIP breast implant scandal, this study said polyeurethane should not be in the body: “We recommend research to find a non-toxic, non-biodegradable synthetic material as an alternative to polyurethane”.
Commenting on the announcement that University of Sheffield has developed a new polyurethane mesh, Chair of the APPG on Surgical Mesh Implants, Owen Smith MP said: “Whilst I welcome new interventions to treat stress urinary incontinence and prolapse, I would urge great caution over the use of synthetic materials to treat these conditions. It is crucial that lessons are learnt from the use of polypropylene mesh and the life-changing complications women have experienced since undergoing surgery. This new material must undergo rigorous and strict clinical trials and should only be used if such complications can be ruled out.”
Feb 6 Women from across Britain join a 100 years of Votes for Women rally outside Parliament followed by a question in the House of Lords asked by Lord Phillip Hunt calling for a mesh suspension.
Jan 30 Ministers agree a full audit into mesh complications in England. This needs rolling out to the whole of the UK. Sky report
Jan 18 Surgeon Society BAUS update its website to give a full over view of ALL the latest information on mesh risks.
The All Party Parliamentary Group is on January 30.
Oxford Hospitals admit there have been “errors made in the national gynaecological community” in the use of mesh.
Inappropriate surgery, with poor counselling and consent, poor surgery performed by surgeons who have been inadequately trained in the field, no mandatory reporting of complications when they occur and poor audit of outcomes.
Dec 15: NICE imposes back door ban on vaginal prolapse mesh but no new guidance on incontinence mesh which is the most common pelvic mesh operation in the UK.
Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Surgical Mesh Implants, Owen Smith MP said:
Dec 7, 2017: Professor Carl Heneghan and the BMJ reveal mesh implants have been used in patients without clinical trials.
Nov 30, 2017 Chrissy dies 4 years after a TVT mesh implant for mild stress incontinence. She suffered recurrent urinary tract infections caused by the plastic device . She became resistant to antibiotics used to treat it and died of sepsis.
November 27 NICE to recommend vaginal mesh to fix prolapse to only be used in research. We say this is surgeon code for do not use. Read the BBC report here:
November 21, 2017: All Party Parliamentary Group think tank on mesh meet.
October 18, 2017 Westminster Hall parliamentary debate. The Labour Party calls for immediate suspension of vaginal mesh. MPs will debate the controversial health scandal in Westminster reports The Guardian.
September 30, 2017: Sling The Mesh features in emotional Canadian TV documentary that asks how safe is mesh? Watch from 12.0 for MP Owen Smith
September 28, 2017: Scottish Parliament Public Petitions committee. Women were “window dressing” for a whitewash report. Surgeon calls for public inquiry and full audit into mesh safety..
September 23, 2017. Landmark report shows 9.8% women suffer incontinence mesh complications in the UK.
September 2017: Sling The Mesh joins Scottish Mesh Survivors to speak at the Australian senate inquiry into pelvic mesh implants.
September 2017: All Party Parliamentary Group APPG into mesh is launched with Owen Smith as chair and Paul Masterson as co chair and 16 other MPs. Surgeon Suzy Elneil and Sling The Mesh founder Kath Sansom are formal advisors.
July 2017 Parliamentary lobby for Sling The Mesh : MP Owen Smith said of the NHS England Mesh Review : “Mesh injured women will be deeply disappointed by the outcomes of the final NHS England Review, which seems to have made little progress since its interim report came out over a year ago.
Read our press statement here: July 25, 2017: Sling the Mesh statement following English working group report into mesh
July 18, 2017: A Parliamentary lobby was standing room only when MPs heard harrowing stories of how mesh has changed women’s lives beyond recognition.
MP Owen Smith leads a Parliamentary debate into the controversial operation in September. He will also chair an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) into mesh.
Owen Smith MP talks on BBC Good Morning Ulster calling for suspension of mesh implants to tie in with Scotland. Listen at 2:16.
Surgical mesh is made of polypropylene plastic which can shrink, twist, degrade and cut / erode into nearby tissues and organs causing chronic pain.
It is popular as it is a cheap and quick fix and takes less surgical skill than traditional, native tissue repairs.
It is used to treat incontinence, prolapse and hernias. It is a real fear that if surgeons continue to rely on mesh, traditional surgical skills will die out.
Research carried out by medics at Leicester, Newcastle and Ireland says surgeons are more likely to give women mesh implants because they don’t have the skills to do the tried and tested old fashioned / traditional repairs known as Burch or autologous slings. Read the review here .
Uro Today reports that “The future of surgical care depends on the research we do now. If we don`t address the current shortfalls catastrophic problems like falsified research outcome and bad quality implants and surgical techniques will destroy patients faith and make good techniques disappear.”
Sling The Mesh campaign is calling for:
A full investigation and audit to be carried out into how many women have been adversely affected by vaginal mesh implants and tapes.
A mandatory independent National Register for all new medical devices so patients are tracked for their lifetime.and problems and trends are picked up immediately.
Physiotherapy to be offered as standard for all new mums after giving birth.
Ensure databases take into account Patient Recorded Outcome Measures
Women are calling for an operation with life-changing risks to be banned. If the NHS will not stop mesh altogether then we say it must be pushed to the third and final option only after a non mesh surgery has failed.
In July 2018 incontinence mesh tapes were suspended across the UK pending the outcome of an independent safety review by Baroness Julia Cumberlege.
In December 2017 vaginal prolapse mesh was banned.
In May 2017, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison called for an independent expert to review an independent mesh safety report amid claims that the risks of mesh had been down-played The BBC reports here.
The English Mesh review came out in July 2017. It has been called a whitewash for missing out essential data and not looking at either the safety of the mesh or the way it is implanted.
Sling The Mesh campaign is headed by regional newspaper journalist Kath Sansom, who had the mesh implant operation on the NHS in March 2015, to fix problems caused by childbirth.
Following the 20 minute operation she was in agony with pains in her legs, feet and groin, which left her struggling to walk far. She was unable to use tampons due to severe internal burning and spasms caused by the plastic mesh. She has since had the implant removed by a specialist surgeon. Within a week the burning and spasms went alongside most of the leg and foot pain.
Kath discovered other support groups in the UK, America, Australia and Canada and found Facebook groups with thousands globally suffering.
Angry at realising she was unwittingly involved in a massive women’s medical disaster, Kath set up Sling The Mesh campaign. It was officially launched In June 2015, 10 weeks after her mesh implant operation.
Sling The Mesh Facebook group now has more than 7,200 members. For other groups across the world see bottom of page for details. In England alone, 126,000 mesh tape and mesh patches, have been used in the last 10 years.
The Mesh implants and tapes are used to fix incontinence or prolapse, often caused by natural childbirth. High impact training, which puts pressure on the pelvic floor, can also trigger problems.
Incontinence is a common problem for high performing athletes. Some suffer from the distressing condition of incontinence or prolapse due to joint hypermobility syndrome, others for no apparent reason, from a young age.
Kath said:: “There are women in wheelchairs or walking with sticks because of this operation. Others with life-altering chronic pain, on cocktails of high dose medication. Many can no longer work, marriages have broken down and all for a 20 minute, day case operation that was supposed to improve their quality of life.
Lost sex lives
One in seven women in my campaign have lost their sex lives where the mesh has either cut into or inflamed their sensitive tissue. It becomes too painful to try to have personal relationships. Women say they feel as if they have been sexually neutered.
“Overnight I went from a super fit mum of teenagers who did boxing training twice a week, high board diving, swimming, mountain biking and dancing at gigs, to a physical wreck who could just about walk my dog round the park.”
For the incontinence operation a surgeon implants a mesh tape sling.
It is known as a TVT, TVTO or TOT which stands for tension free vaginal tape.
It can also be called a transvaginal mesh (TVM) or a mid urethral sling (MUS). It is inserted blindly using a set of hooks known as trocars.
For pelvic organ prolapse, surgeons insert a patch of mesh with arm-like pieces to attach it inside a woman’s body. Again using hooks. Vaginally placed prolapse mesh was effectively banned in December 21017 but the same plastic polypropylene material is still being implanted abdominally to support he same prolapse organs.
In the case of SUI mesh it is the only type of surgery we know of that is performed “blind”. Other operations are performed open where a surgeon can see what they are doing, or using key hole techniques and a camera to guide them.
Traditional surgical fixes for incontinence take up to three hours followed by three to four nights in hospital.
One is called the Burch colposuspension, which is like a hitch and stitch.
The other is an autologous sling, which uses muscle from the stomach wall to make a natural sling.
The incontinence mesh operations take 20 minutes as a day case procedure.The money-saving motivation of mesh is real.
Campaigning by Scottish mums Olive McIlroy and Elaine Holmes, along with journalist Marion Scott, led to former Scottish Health Minister Alex Neill calling for a suspension of mesh implants in June 2014.
However, after a three year review, a final report was released on March 27, 2017, which says the suspension is lifted because it claims the implants are safe to use under guidance.
The review’s chairman, a clinician and two patient reps resigned amid whitewash claims.
The Scottish Independent Review was published amid claims of a whitewash because a whole chapter on risks of this operation was omitted.
Plastic can shrink
No information was included on how the plastic polypropylene material can shrink, twist or degrade and leach toxins.
No mention was made of how prolapse mesh has been upgraded to a higher risk device in America nor a report included by the FDA – America’s health watchdog body – which says the trocars (hooks) to implant the mesh can cause injuries for up to 40% of women having prolapse mesh or 30% of women having mesh for incontinence. Read the report here.
No mention was made in the Scottish Independent Review that this is the ONLY surgery performed blind. The plastic mesh tape sling is inserted by guesswork, a bit like touch typing.
Clean contaminated field
There was no mention in the review that the plastic is inserted through the clean, contaminated, surgical field of the vagina. That means an area of good bacteria is invaded by a foreign body – a piece of plastic – where it can harbour bacteria causing lifelong urinary infections.
Lies, damn lies and statistics
The review does not explain the statistics used in a report published in the Lancet in 2016.
The report claims mesh is low risk BUT it uses Hospital Episode Statistics, known as HES data. If a woman presents with a mesh complication to her GP but does not go to hospital for it then she is not included in the HES data. Women given antibiotics for constant water infections or given high doses of pain killers but not referred to hospital, for example, will not be included in the HES.
That means the figures of risk will be VASTLY under reported. Read the flawed study here
Bigger disaster since thalidomide
The mesh has caused so many health problems in Australia that some of the products were de-registered there in November 2014.
The scandal in the 50s and 60s saw babies born with deformed limbs after women were prescribed Thalidomide as a morning sickness drug with devastating complications.
In the USA more than 100,000 lawsuits have been filed from women who have suffered permanent disabilities .
Leading American surgeon Tom Margolis felt so strongly about the TVT product that he wrote to Scottish Parliament urging them to ban the operation, saying the use of the mesh : “Must stop immediately. The complications from this defective surgical theory and defective material far outweigh the potential benefits.”Read the letter:
Orange netting as mesh implant
The TVT mesh is one of many medical devices, including metal on metal hip implants and the disastrous PIP breast implants that used mattress grade silicone, that campaigners say are too easily approved for use.
In January 2015, a team of undercover scientists took a piece of fruit netting, used to package oranges, to a regulatory body in Austria and were on the brink of getting a CE Kitemark approval for it, to prove how lax the system is.
Kath, whose girls are 14 and 20, decided to have a TVT mesh bladder sling after suffering what many mums are left with after childbirth – mild stress urinary incontinence. She was told it was a minimally invasive, relatively low risk, operation taking less than half an hour.
However, she has since found out what she thought was a body-friendly sling is made from polypropylene plastic mesh – the same material used to make drinks bottles .
She said: “The mesh is harsh with rough edges as sharp as a razor blade and feels more like the sort of material you would find on a building site not the type of thing to be put near the most delicate area in a woman’s body.”
Once inserted the mesh takes about four to six weeks to knit into the tissues.
After that it is like trying to get chewing gum out of matted hair.
Unlike other implants, that are relatively easy to be removed if there are problems, vaginal mesh is designed to be permanent. Surgeons can put it in but those same surgeons cannot take it out if a woman presents with complications.
Living a new normal
There are only a few surgeons in the world who can successfully remove it. Kath had her mesh sling removed by Natalia Price in Oxford in October 2015 and although quality of life has improved she is adjusting to a new normal.
She can no longer put impact on her legs. Even the shortest run, skip or jump will put her on pain medication for days. Before mesh she planned to cycle Snowdon’s gruelling Marin Trail. Now she can cycle for about 10 minutes on flat ground before leg pain kicks in.
“I was not told that I may suffer horrible leg and pelvic pains or that I would feel like I was being cut by cheese wire inside my body.
“I was not told that this was a permanent device. Some women are on pain killers for life, suffer bloating from the inflammation and go on to develop auto immune diseases like fibromyalgia.
“There are online support forums across the globe with tales of women suffering and crying out for help. When it goes wrong it goes spectacularly wrong and it is not a risk worth taking.
“Few surgeons give women fully informed consent; risks are not properly explained,” she said. “In the world of mesh removals I’ve had a good recovery compared to many others, but even my health has been compromised. None of us ever go back to what we were.”
Human guinea pigs
Woman are the human guinea pigs for a product that was launched on the market in 1996 having only been tested in a few dogs, sheep and rabbits, who cannot speak of crippling pain or lost sex lives.
Those who support mesh say it is one of the most studied operations in the world.
However, most of those studies are either short term or are run by biased medics, who have previously or still have financial interests within the medical device industry.
Alternatively, they use flawed statistics such as Hospital Episode Statistics (HES).
The HES only record if a woman has been treated for her complications in hospital and does not take into account women suffering pain going back and forth to their GP.
Bias in medical studies unravelled itself in the 2015 Cochrane Review into mesh which looked at 81 different reports.
Out of those 81 , only two were at a low risk of bias. A total of 13 were high risk and the other 66 were unclear.
Jeremy Vine Show
Sling The Mesh featured on The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 for the lunchtime medical slot which was guest hosted by BBC media editor, Amol Rajan, and GP Sarah Jarvis. Monday January 23, 2017 at 1pm. Listen here
When the campaign launched in 2015 it was featured on Sky News with reporter Charlotte Lomas-Farley.
MESH PROBLEMS ARE GLOBAL
AMERICA Dr Raz explains why he will not use mesh implants.
AUSTRALIA Senator Derryn Hinch backs campaigners who are calling for the surgery to stop.
BELGIUM Women have joined forces to fight mesh implants
CANADA Campaigners are desperate for their voices to be head amid a backdrop of legal cases suing for being maimed.
FINLAND Women in a Facebook support group.
ISRAEL The legal cases are ongoing in Israel.
NEW ZEALAND Just one of many women suffering after a mesh implant.
NORTHERN IRELAND Women are fighting to be transferred to England for mesh removal with a specialist who can remove mesh implants if they have complications because nobody in Ireland can do it. So far nobody is listening. to them.
SCOTLAND The eyes of the world are on Scotland where politically they are leading the way by being the first to take the fight to Parliament. An independent review reinstated mesh implants in March 2017 amid claims of a whitewash. Campaigners are now looking into launching a legal challenge.
TO FIND ALL THE GLOBAL MESH SUPPORT GROUPS FOLLOW THIS LINK TO THE PINNED POST ON SLING THE MESH ON FACEBOOK