In 2010, Teresa and her husband David were in the middle of renovating their dream house when Teresa underwent a routine surgery to fix a common incontinence problem. Like many women, Teresa consented to having her bladder corrected with the surgical implantation of transvaginal mesh, believing it to be the best option for her safety and recovery. But instead of improving her quality of life, the surgery left Teresa with nothing but agony and debt.
Now, nearly two years after the surgery, Teresa’s house is only half finished and she and her husband have fallen behind on their payments.
“She would be back up and going in just a few days. That it would be a real quick process. That’s what we were told and that was four surgeries ago,” David told America Now News.
Transavginal mesh provides surgeons with an alternative method of shoring up pelvic organs that have dropped out of place in patients with weakened pelvic muscles, a condition called Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP). The condition is usually brought about by childbirth and age. The mesh can also function as a sling to position the bladder and mitigate the symptoms of Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI).
The trouble with mesh devices, which are designed to become permanently enmeshed with the surrounding tissue, is that they sometimes shift and break apart, leaving patients with intense pain, bleeding, infection, and internal injuries. If the mesh erodes through the vaginal wall, it can make sexual intercourse prohibitively painful and injure the patient’s partner too. Removing the mesh often requires multiple surgeries.
The experience has motivated Teresa to take a stand against transvaginal mesh.
“The only way I can do anything – stop it – is to stand up and say, ‘stop putting it in women,'” she told America Now News. Despite all of her surgeries, Teresa, like many victims of transvaginal mesh, continues to live with the pain.
Surgeon Tom Margolis, whose clinic near San Jose, California, specializes in removing transvaginal mesh, has become one of the most outspoken critics of the devices.
“Fourteen years ago, or whatever it was, when I was approached by the industry and told to start implanting these devices I said, ‘No. I will not do this. This violates core basic surgical tenets,'” Dr. Margolis told America Now News.
Dr. Margolis explained that the devices should never have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they contradict the surgical principle that mandates surgeons use only sterile instruments and devices. Transvaginal mesh is implanted by passing it through the vagina, which effectively contaminates the device and exposes the patient to future complications, he says.
“The proponents of mesh have shown that there’s erosion at a rate of 15.6 percent, and that’s magnificently high — and I’m not using magnificently in a good context,” Dr. Margolis told America Now News. “That’s an insanely, suicidally high complication rate.”