Susan's doctor referred her to a gynecologist who had routinely performed transvaginal mesh surgery; it wasn't hard to convince Susan that this kind of procedure was "the way to go" for bladder prolapse. "I figured if I could get rid of urinary leakage I should go ahead with this elective surgery," she says. It's not uncommon for women to have "a little leakage" when they cough, sneeze or laugh, but it can be embarrassing, so it's understandable that many people would elect to have surgery. "But if I knew the consequences of transvaginal mesh [TVM], I would never have had this procedure," Susan adds.
Susan had TVM surgery this past May and she has just about lived in her bedroom ever since. "Even before I got out of hospital I was concerned about the amount of swelling and pain, and the amount of blood in my urine," Susan explains. "My doctor said it was normal because there was a lot of moving around, stretching the mesh. But when I got home, my condition got a lot worse.
"I was in terrible pain for at least a month. My husband had to walk me to the bathroom because of the pain, which is much worse when I urinate or have a bowel movement—to this day. It feels like this mesh around my vaginal area is slashing and ripping all my tissue. And this area is still swollen, lumpy and hard.
"I had two post-surgery appointments: the first time my doctor said I was starting to develop an infection but it was too soon to give me anything—I still had stitches. By my second appointment the infection got worse and my vaginal area was burning and swollen so she prescribed antibiotics. Now I was really worried: I told her about the pain and pressure when I urinated but she wasn't concerned. Maybe if I pushed the issue more or asked the right questions…
"Regardless, the second appointment was one month ago and my symptoms are more persistent. I have a nasty vaginal discharge; I can't even begin to describe the odor and I have to wear pads all the time. Back pain and abdominal pain is excruciating, and every time I urinate it feels like 'pins and needles.'
"My husband and I waited three weeks longer than my doctor's advice regarding how long to wait before having sex—we tried a few times but it's way too painful; we can't do anything without it hurting so my husband is also suffering because of this TVM—it's really hell.
"Had it not been for watching the commercials on TV warning women about this mesh sling and now the TVM lawsuits, I wouldn't have known all my symptoms were because of this kind of mesh. And here's another thing: my husband and I did a lot of research and found out that my doctor was supposed to offer an alternative method to repair the damage; apparently there is another procedure where your own tissue is used. I want to know why my gynecologist only offered this synthetic mesh."
Perhaps medical consultant and analyst Lana Keeton can answer Susan's question. Not only are doctors mislead by the manufacturer's false data (showing high success rates and low failures); Keeton says that "biologic mesh is more expensive and the doctor needs greater surgical skills and training in order to constructively remodel with biologic mesh." Armed with this knowledge, Susan is going back to her GP, hopefully to get a referral to another surgeon who will remove the mesh. Susan says she can live with a little incontinence.
READ MORE BARD AVAULTA TVM LEGAL NEWS
In the fall of 2008, the FDA issued a warning about the high rates of complications with transvaginal mesh procedures, but they didn't go so far as to remove the mesh from the marketplace. Instead, the agency recommended that "physicians obtain specialized training in placing the mesh, that they watch patients carefully for signs of infection or erosion of the fascia around the mesh, and that they fully inform their patients of all potential complications."