A variety of life occurrences put stress on women’s bodies. Childbirth, extreme physical exertion, and the natural aging process, among other factors, contribute to many women experiencing a significant weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are more vital than many people appreciate; in fact, many individuals do not pay proper attention to the necessity of these muscles until they or someone they know suffers from a condition related to this physical weakening. As detrimental as weakened pelvic floor muscles can be on a woman’s life, however, modern medicine has introduced new ways to treat this condition, one of which includes the use of transvaginal mesh.
Transvaginal mesh was introduced to the public in the 1990s when doctors touted it as a revolutionary way to treat this common female issue. Before mesh made its way onto the market, women used to have to undergo invasive and painful reconstructive surgery in a bid to strengthen their pelvic muscles. Many women did not ever achieve the level of physical comfort and function they once enjoyed when they were younger.
However, with its introduction into the medical world, this mesh brought with it the promise of renewed support without the invasive procedures that once hallmarked pelvic reconstructive surgery. Doctors could insert the mesh through a patient’s vagina and repair the pelvic muscles without having to make large incisions into her abdomen. Once the surgery was finished, the mesh would stay in place and offer the support that women desired so that they could go back to living their normal lives once again.
Even more, the mesh was, and is still to some degree today, touted as a more affordable option for women who could not afford the extensive muscular repair surgery that was once the only way for them to reverse their conditions. In fact, the mesh is made out of a synthetic plastic called polypropylene. This material is cost effective and reasonably affordable for patients who must pay out-of-pocket for their surgery or pay for a portion of the procedure after their insurance covers its part of their bill. Even more, it was touted as safe to use without causing infection or rejection once it was transplanted into a woman’s body. Because of how popular it was in the medical community after its introduction, thousands of women signed up for prolapse repair surgery, pinning their hopes onto this revolutionary material that promised them the ability to reclaim their former lives prior to their pelvic floor prolapse.
As popular as this medical device once was, it has now come under significant scrutiny. Doctors continue to find ways to improve women’s conditions without using this mesh material for support. Moreover, this mesh has been linked to many cases of organ rupture and erosion, giving doctors pause before offering it as a viable method for repairing pelvic muscular prolapse. For many women who want to avoid the infection, pain, and erosion that can come with mesh complications, they now often resort to newer methods of repair, if not the methods used before this mesh landed onto the medical scene.
In its simplest definition, this mesh is a synthetically made sling that is fitted into a woman’s pelvic region to support the muscles in that part of the body. It is made from a plastic known as polypropylene and is capable of lasting for years without having to be replaced. In its earliest days, it was also said to be capable of withstanding the weight and pressure put on it when a woman stood upright, exercised, lifted objects, and otherwise carried out her normal routine. This mesh was invented to provide the support for pelvic muscles that fell because of damage brought on through childbirth, lifting heavy objects, the natural aging process, and other life events.
It is called transvaginal because it can literally be put inside a woman’s body by traversing through the vagina. While a doctor could technically insert it through an abdominal incision, many doctors prefer instead to insert it by passing it through a patient’s vaginal canal. This procedure is typically less invasive, less painful, and does not require the extensive recovery period that comes with abdominal surgery. Moreover, women typically experience fewer post-operative complications like bleeding and infection.
Once it is inserted, the mesh can provide the support for the pelvic muscles, as well as the internal organs in that area. In fact, many women who have weakened pelvic muscles suffer from a number of different conditions that necessitate some sort of reconstructive surgery, whether involving mesh or not. Some of the more conditions brought on by a weakening of these muscles include cystocele, which involves the bladder collapsing into the vagina, or enterocele, which is when the small intestine collapses into the vaginal canal. Other conditions include rectocele, or the rectum falling into the vagina, as well as uterine prolapse, or the uterus collapsing into the vaginal canal. Along with these conditions, the urethra and the roof of the vagina can also collapse because of weakened pelvic muscles. These conditions are known as urethrocele and vaginal vault, respectively.
The mesh is designed to support any and all of these internal organs, however, and can be placed in accordance to a woman’s particular anatomical needs. Women who undergo this surgery often look forward to carrying out their normal routines again. Because of their prolapse condition, they may have been unable to laugh, sneeze, lift, sit down, or carry out other seemingly minor tasks without experiencing incontinence. The reconstructive surgery, if carried out as planned, ideally should allow women to avoid incontinence and the embarrassment and discomfort that comes with this condition. In fact, most patients recover fully from this surgery within a few weeks, if not sooner. This mesh was designed to help people recover without experiencing transvaginal mesh side effects like infection or recurring prolapse because of the mesh’s inability to perform as expected.
Transvaginal mesh is designed to provide the essential support that no longer exists in a woman’s body because of her weakened pelvic muscles. When a woman’s pelvic muscles function normally, they keep organs like the bladder, uterus, urethra, and rectum in their proper places. When the muscles weaken, however, these organs stand the risk of prolapsing into the vaginal canal. A woman who has such prolapses often cannot walk, sit down, go to the bathroom, or carry out normal activities without experiencing great pain and embarrassment.
Likewise, she cannot have intercourse without experiencing pain or incontinence. For many women, this condition puts a strain on their romantic relationships and causes them to become embarrassed or reluctant to go out in public. Even something as simple as sneezing, coughing, or laughing could cause them to be incontinent. Until the last two decades, women had few options when it came to repairing prolapsed organs. They often had to go through extensive and invasive operations, sometimes with less than ideal results. They also faced significant recovery times, as well as expensive medical bills that put a strain on their ability to resume their normal lives.
However, when this mesh came onto the market, women were promised better outcomes and the hope of being able to reclaim their former lives. This mesh, with its sling design, is meant to provide support that is otherwise missing because of the weakening of a woman’s pelvic muscles. Organs like the rectum, uterus, urethra, and small intestine will remain in place, even with the woman standing upright, sitting down, exercising, and otherwise moving normally. Because it is made from polypropylene, the mesh likewise is designed to last for years without needing to be replaced or removed. It likewise is designed to prevent infection from occurring in this part of a woman’s body because of the operation.
Even with its design and construction, transvaginal mesh has been linked to complications. Many women report that they have had infections develop, sometimes within weeks of their surgeries. Others report erosion or perforation of their internal organs. Some women have had to have reconstructive surgery done to repair organs that were damaged by the mesh. In fact, as many as 40,000 lawsuits are now pending in court against the makers of mesh. Women who were hurt by their operations or suffered dire setbacks after their operations have joined in class action lawsuits against the manufacturers. As their lawsuits are pending, women who were adversely affected by this product continue to suffer setbacks that range from limited physical movement to depression and anxiety. Some women have become entirely bedridden because their internal organs prolapsed despite the mesh’s placement. Others have experienced setbacks because their devices, rather than their organs, prolapsed into the vaginal canal, making emergency surgery necessary in some instances. Despite the hope and promise that this invention offered when first introduced in the 1990s, it has proven in some cases to be less than an ideal solution. Many doctors are reluctant to use this mesh as a first option when treating women with weakened pelvic muscles.
Is Tranvaginal Mesh Still Safe?
Given the number of transvaginal mesh lawsuits pending in court, as well as the predicted settlement that will be worth millions of dollars, many in the medical community wonder if this mesh will continue to be relevant. In fact, polypropylene mesh is still used in medicine today, if not for transvaginal mesh surgery, then for hernia and aneurysm repair surgeries. Still, this mesh has not disappeared off the medical market entirely for gynecological purposes. In fact, while many doctors are reluctant to use it, others continue to utilize the mesh as a viable option for pelvis muscle strengthening and prolapse prevention.
With that, women who suffer from weakened pelvis muscles are advised to ask their doctors beforehand if they should utilize pelvic mesh slings for restorative purposes. Despite the number of failed operations, other women have undergone this procedure without experiencing any ill side effects. They have been able to move on with their lives without having any troubles at all with their bladder or pelvic slings. In fact, many women report that their organs have remained in place even while they have taken up exercise regimens, gone back to work, or otherwise resumed their normal lives before their organ prolapse conditions.
Moreover, the slings being used now are in essence the same that were used back when this medical technology first came onto the scene back in the 1990s. Slings are still made out of polypropylene and feature the same design as they did several decades ago. With that, if a woman decides that she would like to assume the risk of having a mesh sling implanted into her pelvic region, she may be advised to know about the risks involved with the surgery. It is entirely possible that she will be advised to take a longer recovery period so that the mesh does not become prolapsed. She also may be advised to watch for signs of infection. If she acts in good time at the first sign of trouble, she could avoid the same complications that has prompted so many other women to take legal action against the makers of these mesh implants.
Doctors likewise continue to study if and to what extent these slings should continue to be used. Even as many surgeons still incorporate them into gynecological corrective procedures, experts in the medical community continue to debate if manufacturers could come up with a better solution for strengthening weakened pelvic muscles. Until that day arrives, however, pelvic mesh implants will continue to have a place in the medical arena. Women can still choose to have transvaginal mesh implanted into their pelvic areas in a bid to prevent organ prolapse and reclaim their former ways of life.