Transvaginal Mesh Surgery: 5 Things Every Woman Should Know

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) or stress urinary incontinence (SUI) can disrupt your life and make even the simplest tasks challenging. 

If you’re exploring treatment options, you might have come across transvaginal mesh surgery. However, before you decide, there are certain crucial facts you should understand.

This minimally invasive procedure uses surgical mesh to provide extra support to repair weakened pelvic tissues. Although this surgery is successful for many women, some report experiencing complications soon after their procedure.

In this blog, we will discuss five things every woman should know about transvaginal mesh surgery.

#1: What Exactly Is Transvaginal Mesh Surgery?

This surgery treats pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where pelvic organs like the bladder, uterus, or rectum dislodge and press against the vaginal walls. This causes symptoms like pelvic pain, painful sexual intercourse, and urinary incontinence.

In transvaginal mesh surgery, a surgeon inserts a strip of synthetic, mesh-like fabric through a small vaginal incision. The mesh is implanted under the vaginal lining and attached to sturdy pelvic ligaments and muscles. According to TruLaw, its primary function is to provide structural support and help restore the prolapsed organs to their original position. The mesh has pores in it which help the body’s tissues to grow into it. 

The surgery is deemed permanent, and the mesh should only be removed in case of life-threatening complications. 

#2. Who Is a Potential Candidate for This Surgery?

Transvaginal mesh surgery might not be the right fit for everyone.

Generally, good candidates are women with moderate to severe prolapse: where organs bulge significantly into the vagina and significantly impact daily activities. Additionally, candidates should:

  • Have tried less invasive options: like pelvic floor exercises or pessaries, without adequate success.
  • Be in good overall health: with minimal risk factors for surgery.
  • Understand the potential risks and complications: and be comfortable with the recovery process.

Smokers, diabetics, and those with autoimmune disorders may not be suitable candidates. It’s important to grasp that these are general guidelines. 

The simplest way to determine your candidacy is through a thorough consultation with your doctor. They will assess your situation, severity of prolapse, and overall health to make the most informed recommendation for your specific needs.

#3. What Are the Pros and Cons of This Surgery?

The potential benefits of transvaginal mesh surgery are alleviated prolapse symptoms, restored anatomy, and minimal recovery time. It has high short-term success rates compared to traditional prolapse surgery.

However, the long-term results show declining success rates and a consistent rate of complications requiring repeat surgery to remove or repair the mesh. The surgery can also cause erosion of the mesh through the vaginal tissue, organ perforation during surgery, infections, bleeding, and pain. Nearly 20% of patients require follow-up surgery within 5 years of the surgery due to recurrence of prolapse or issues with the mesh itself.

The FDA has placed a ban on the sale of such meshes after over 100,000 lawsuits were filed against the manufacturers. The vaginal mesh lawsuit accuses manufacturers of neglect, warranty lapses, design and production flaws, and deceptive advertising. So far, about 95% of the lawsuits have been resolved and around $8 billion has been awarded in settlements.

#4. What Is the Importance of Informed Consent?

Informed consent is a key aspect of the patient’s decision-making process. It involves a detailed discussion between the patient and the doctor. 

Thus, ensuring that the patient understands the nature of the procedure, its potential risks, and non-surgical treatment options. The patient should be provided with comprehensive information about the surgery, including the specific type of mesh to be used, the associated risks, and the likelihood of complications. 

This process empowers the patient to make an informed decision about their treatment, considering the potential benefits and risks.

#5. What Does Recovery Look Like?

Following the surgery, patients need to have realistic expectations about the recovery process and long-term outcomes.

It can take about 4–6 weeks to recover from transvaginal mesh surgery. You may have pain and bleeding for a few weeks. Avoid heavy lifting, exercise, and sexual activity during this time. Consult your doctor to manage pain and prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.

The full effects of the surgery may be seen in about 3–6 months. During this duration, you need to be patient. While many patients might experience relief from prolapse symptoms, it does not mean that the surgery has restored their functioning. Discuss ahead of time what options are available if the initial surgery fails.

Understanding that the recovery might take a while and staying committed to the prescribed care routine can contribute significantly to a smoother recuperation journey.

In conclusion, navigating transvaginal mesh surgery can be overwhelming. As you weigh the potential pros against the cons, it’s crucial to be well-informed.

Remember, every situation is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. While transvaginal mesh surgery is minimally invasive, the risk of complications makes it crucial to have in-depth discussions with your doctor about this option. Finally, choose the path that empowers you to reclaim control of your body and regain confidence in your daily life. 

And, never forget, you are not alone – support groups and resources are available to guide you every step of the way.

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