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Transvaginal Mesh Problems in Canada

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Toronto, OntarioExactly how many women in Canada have had transvaginal mesh implanted to deal with bladder issues or collapsing pelvic organs is not known. Estimates run as high as 60,000 women. What is clear is that there are hundreds of Canadian women who are so unsatisfied with the results that they have filed transvaginal mesh lawsuits– many of those women have had surgery to remove the mesh.

Attorney Paul Miller took on his first transvaginal mesh case in October of 2011 and currently represents about 180 women in transvaginal mesh lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and other manufacturers of transvaginal mesh surgery kits. Approximately 50 of those cases have been settled although the details of the settlements are not public.

“I’ve learned more about female anatomy than I ever thought I would know,” says Miller and not being glib or insensitive when he says that. “You get a wide range of people. Everyone deals with pain differently. You get people who are in desperate need to people who are trying to carry on with their lives.”

Among those women is 52-year-old Christine Asprey of Winnipeg. In January 2012, Asprey had a mesh procedure to deal with prolapsing pelvic organs and mild urinary incontinence. The weeks and months that followed Asprey began to experience extreme pain. It was so extreme that she had the mesh removed in the United States by an American surgeon.

“The pain was suicidal,” says Asprey. “That is how bad it was. The pain is so unreal. Still today the pain is unreal. I have nerve damage and I have connective tissue damage.”

According to Dr. Roxana Geoffrion, a urogynecologist from the Centre for Pelvic Competence in Vancouver, British Columbia, the number of adverse events from mesh is low in Canada and ranging between 1 and 5 percent depending on the procedure.

However, a number of the types of surgical kits produced prior to 2011 and used in these procedures have been dropped from the market because of issues primarily in the US says Dr. Geoffrion.

Dr. Geoffrion is part of a group currently in the process of updating new guidelines for the use of mesh in Canada.

“With the kits that were taken off the market -- there was just too much mesh used,” says Dr. Geoffrion. “The more mesh you use the more pain and erosion you can have.

“The new guidelines are to let people know there have been problems with the kits,” says Dr. Geoffrion. “The way you insert it and the volume of mesh is important. I think if people are involved in doing this type of surgery with mesh it should be evaluated as a part of a research trial – and so people can be really informed.

“There are not enough surgeons in Canada with expertise and the time to deal with the number of women who want the procedure undone."

Attorney Miller says a number of his clients, including Christine Asprey, have travelled to the US to have mesh removed. Provincial healthcare systems in Canada, in some cases, where women make an application, have been footing the bill for the surgeries.

“It depends on the circumstances,” says Miller. “I would estimate on average the cost is about $25,000 per patient. When we file complaints on behalf of women with mesh issues we try to claim back the money spent by the healthcare system.”

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