Concerns over vaginal mesh implants
19th April 2017 – Hundreds of women are reported to be suing the NHS because of severe pain and disability caused by vaginal mesh implants
The implants are used to treat urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse after childbirth. However, some women have reported that the devices have perforated the lining of the vagina, leaving them in permanent pain, unable to walk or have sex.
The UK's medicines regulator says it "sympathises" with those affected.
According to the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, more than 800 women in the UK are taking legal action against the NHS and the makers of vaginal mesh implants.
The meshes are made by different manufactures from a plastic called polypropylene. They are used to support organs such as the vagina, womb, bladder or urethra which may have been weakened while giving birth.
However, the programme found cases where surgery to implant them was followed by years of pain. One childminder described how the mesh had cut its way through the wall of her vagina "like a cheese-wire". Another woman said the pain had been so bad she had considered suicide.
The BBC quoted experts who said that if the women were successful in their legal claims, the NHS could be facing a pay-out amounting to tens of millions of pounds in compensation.
According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), there were 733 'adverse incidents' in the UK for stress urinary incontinence and 346 for pelvic organ prolapse between 2012 and 2016.
Patient safety 'our highest priority'
In a statement, an MHRA spokesperson says: "Patient safety is our highest priority and we sympathise with women who have suffered complications after surgery.
"We are committed to help address the serious concerns raised by some patients. We have undertaken a great deal of work to continuously assess findings of studies undertaken by the clinical community over many years, as well as considering the feedback from all sources in that time. What we have seen, and continue to see, is that the greater proportion of the clinical community and patients support the use of these devices in the UK for treatment of the distressing conditions of incontinence and organ prolapse.
We encourage anyone who suspects they have had a complication after having a mesh device implanted, to discuss this with their clinician and report to us via the Yellow Card scheme regardless of how long ago the implant was inserted."
The meshes are still prescribed on the NHS in the UK. However, a review earlier this year in Scotland concluded that vaginal meshes should not be routinely offered to women with pelvic organ prolapse.