Surgical vaginal mesh is used in the treatment of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence in women. The University of Pittsburgh has revealed a significant connection between vaginal mesh and inflammation in patients.
POP, common in older women, or those who have been pregnant or given birth, is when organs such as the bladder or uterus descend from their normal position. During everyday activities such as sneezing or laughing, stress urinary continence may occur, causing the bladder to leak urine. The mesh procedure keeps the urethra and bladder neck shut during normal activities.
In a vaginal mesh procedure, the mesh is implanted and creates a hammock-like structure to support the drooping organs. In time, the body’s tissue grows around the mesh to stabilize it and to support the surrounding organs.
Women have reported complications such as infection, mesh erosion, device failure, debilitating pain, and organ prolapse. As the mesh erodes into nearby organs, it may lead to bleeding, tearing, pain during sex, and urinary issues.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 1,000 adverse event reports between 2005 and 2007, concerning complications, injuries, and even death. The FDA began studying the device in October 2008. In the next 2 years, approximately 3,000 vaginal mesh injury reports were submitted to the FDA. As a result, the agency issued a public safety announcement stating that vaginal mesh complications were frequent and in 2012, debated reclassifying vaginal mesh as a high-risk device.
Recently, a new study has shown a strong link between the implantation of vaginal mesh and inflammation. Researchers compared vaginal samples from 27 vaginal mesh removals, due to pain, to 30 samples from women who did not have vaginal mesh. The study examined macrophage response to the implanted mesh. A macrophage is a kind of white blood cell that digests certain foreign substances in the body. Their presence indicates inflammation. This study showed that more inflammation occurred in women who had vaginal mesh implants.
The author of the study stated that, “In women with complications, mesh induces a proinflammatory response that persists years after implantation.”