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Shocking figures have revealed the number of women left in pain, unable walk or have sex after undergoing vaginal mesh surgery to help with incontinence.
NHS figures show that one in every 15 women fitted with the vaginal mesh implants in the past ten years has had it removed.
The implant – known as trans-vaginal tape (TVT) – is a small mesh support used to treat urinary incontinence or prolapse occurring after childbirth.
Removal of the tape can cause serious long-term complications for some women who are left in chronic pain, requiring invasive surgery to have the mesh removed.
According to figures released by NHS Digital, between 2006 and 2016, more than 75,000 people had the TVT implant fitted.
And, in the same period, more than 4,900 procedures were carried out to remove them – equating to 6.5 per cent.
Sohier Elneil, a consultant at University College Hospital told the Guardian the figures were a “scandal” and others called for a public inquiry into the use of the treatment.
The implants have become a popular method of treating post-birth complications as a less invasive alternative to traditional approaches.
But removing the mesh, which is designed to embed itself in the surrounding tissue, can require long and complex surgery and risks damaging nerves and nearby organs.
The surgeon would have to perform the operation by entering both through the vaginal opening and the patient’s stomach where they have to “chisel” out small sections of the mesh.
Ms Elneil said that many patients expect a “simple and easy fix” but stressed the removal “is a completely different story”.
The mesh treatment has been the centre of a suspicion after NHS meeting minutes, obtained by the Press Association from 2016, revealed bosses plotted to “avoid media attention” about complications.
When the minutes were published, authorities were accused of covering up the true risks of the treatment.
And these latest figures do not tally up with those published in a 2014 government report, which estimated the removal rate for TVT was just 0.9 per cent, sparking more accusations that the complications relating to the treatment is being played down.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), who published the report conceded that no device was without risk.
But, in a statement, it added: “In common with other medical device regulators worldwide, none of whom have removed these devices from the market, we are not aware of evidence which would lead to the conclusion these devices are inherently unsafe if used as intended.”
And Johnson & Johnson, the leading manufacturer of the meshes, released a statement saying: “We empathise with those patients who have had complications associated with pelvic mesh procedures, but we believe it is important to recognise that their experiences do not speak for the vast majority of women whose lives have been improved through treatment with pelvic mesh devices.”
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