Transvaginal mesh (TVM) is one of the most controversial medical devices in history and has harmed millions of women around the world. But what if you have a severe case of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and desperately need help? Should TVM be available in extreme circumstances?
The BMJ (British Medical Journal) recently published an article exposing the manipulation of facts and financial payoffs that brought TVM to the market back in 1998. Apparently TVM manufacturers “aggressively hustled” their products into popularity and government regulators approved them “on the flimsiest of evidence.” For example, Ulf Ulmsten, the Swedish obstetrician who invented mesh, was paid $1 million to test the effectiveness of his mesh and would be paid only if the results were positive - this is clearly a conflict of interest. (However Johnson & Johnson denies these claims of conditional payment). Another issue discovered in the UK is that many mesh manufacturers also funded medical colleges where their products were promoted to these future doctors; clearly another conflict of interest. TVM was never tested in a vagina before being put into millions of women and due to the greed of doctors and pharmaceutical companies, many patients now have to live with chronic pain, are unable to work, have broken relationships, and more.
We think so! Time and research have shown that polypropylene, the material that mesh is made of, erodes in the body creating shards of plastic that can slice through tissue, nerves, and organs. The best way to make an educated decision for yourself is to research TVM by talking with other women who have had this surgery. You can find these women on Facebook on pages like Mesh Me Not and Understanding Pelvic Mesh or by reading blogs written by women who have had TVM like Sling the Mesh and Mesh Angels.Additionally, this is a question that can only be answered by you and your doctor since every woman and every circumstance is different. However, according to NICE (the UK’s version of our FDA), they reported this week that, “A full range of non-surgical options should be offered to women with urinary stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse before treatment with surgical mesh and tape is offered as a treatment option.”There are other options that can help you to manage SUI other than TVM. Timed voiding, pessaries, pelvic exercises, and the Burch surgical procedure are all alternative methods to address your condition that don’t pose the same risks as mesh. Ask your doctor which choice might work best for your individual condition.Furthermore, let’s address the obvious question here: why are we focusing on a study from the UK and quoting NICE and not the FDA? The unfortunate answer is that the U.S. fails to acknowledge the dangers of TVM. While TVM has been banned or halted around the world, it is still common practice to use TVM in women in the U.S. If TVM is too dangerous to be used in women from other countries, then it should not be used in our own women.