Warning About Pelvic Mesh

WCAX|July 15, 2011

Lana Keeton says she’s been in constant pain since doctors used plastic mesh during pelvic surgery.

“Constant pain is debilitating,” she said. “It’s awful.”

Doctors surgically implanted mesh to support her bladder. And now the FDA says hundreds of women across the country are having similar problems. The mesh was used to treat Keeton’s incontinence. It’s also used to treat organ prolapse in women, especially when the pelvis stretches after childbirth.

“Pelvic organ prolapse– it results when you have a dropping of the bladder and the uterus,” said Dr. Lisa Dabney of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. “The mesh is used to better support the bladder, the uterus, other organs around there.”

Tens of thousands of women have prolapse surgery every year. The FDA says it’s received more than 1,500 reports of pain, bleeding and infection.

“The most common complications– something called mesh erosion or mesh exposure. And that is where the mesh is peeking through the tissues that it is designed to support,” Dabney explained.

Dabney says the mesh can benefit some patients who have no other option, but some experts want it off the market altogether.

“They’ve been used despite no clinical trials, no testing on humans to see if they’re actually safe and effective,” said Dr. Diana Zuckerman of the National Research Center for Women & Families.

Keeton has had more than a dozen surgeries to try to remove the mesh.

“I don’t want other women to go through what I went through,” she said.

The FDA will hold a meeting in September to discuss the mesh and Keeton plans to be there.

Surgeons began using mesh to repair hernias in the 1950s. The FDA cleared mesh for prolapse in 2002, but since it was similar to devices used for decades it did not undergo human testing.

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