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Medical Negligence

Government suspends the use of vaginal mesh surgery

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Alice Sanderson, July 12, 2018

The government has suspended the use of vaginal mesh surgery to treat urinary incontinence, following a report highlighting the health risks.

This comes after a number of women who’ve had the procedure spoke about its effect on their lives, which raised media attention around complications after the surgery.

The mesh implant, made out of plastic, can erode once inside the body and cut through surrounding organs. This has left thousands of women unable to work, walk or have sex due to the chronic pain they are left with. For many, the device also leads to recurring infections meaning that they are on permanent medication.

Conditions must be met

A report carried out by The Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review recommended that there be a pause in the use of the implants until a set of conditions are met. This has been accepted by the government.

The conditions must be met by March 2019, and include keeping a register of every procedure carried out and any complications that arise.

Baroness Julia Cumberlege, chair of the review, said that they were unable to find evidence that the benefits of the treatment for urinary incontinence outweighed "the severity of human suffering caused by mesh complications".

"My team and I are in no doubt that this pause is necessary. We must stop exposing women to the risk of life-changing and life-threatening injuries. We must have measures in place to mitigate the risk, and those are sadly lacking at the moment.

"At this stage in our review we are not recommending a ban, but a halt to procedures."

Numbers affected are unclear

It has been estimated that over 100,000 women have had a mesh fitted. Whilst NHS England say that most women suffer no ill effects, the number of women who do has clearly been enough for there to be a pause in procedures.

This number is unclear, and the government are currently carrying out an audit to find out the how many women have been affected.

Our comments

Andrew Cullwick, spokesperson for medical negligence specialists First4Lawyers, says:

“First4Lawyers have long-supported the banning of mash for urinary incontinence except as a last resort.

“When the problems first became clear last year we made our feelings on the matter clear, and we welcome this pause.

“While it is not quite the ban that many hoped for, the pause will give the NHS time to make sure that the procedure is recorded correctly, with one of the issues at the moment being that it is unclear how many women have had the procedure, or complications arising from it.

“We hope that if the procedure resumes, it will only be used in cases where there is no choice, rather than being the go-to option. We also hope that the NHS acknowledge the suffering of the women affected by these implants, and put preventions in place to protect women in the future.”