Home » Health »

Surgeons lacked caution in vaginal mesh, doctor admits

 

Surgeons lacked caution in their use of controversial vaginal mesh implants that have left thousands of women worldwide suicidal, unable to have sex and in agonising pain, a senior doctor has admitted.

Jenny King, director of the Urogynaecological Society of Australasia, said those given the ‘magic’ procedure had been ‘seriously let down’ by the life-changing complications caused by the brittle devices.

She made the revelation at an Australian court case of 700 mesh-suffering women against manufacturer Johnson Johnson. Battling tears, two of those bravely spoke out about how their lives have been destroyed since having the surgery.

Pressure is also mounting for a UK ban of the ‘gold-standard’ treatment for urinary stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. At least 800 British women are suing the NHS and manufacturers after allegedly suffering crippling pain. 

Dr King told the inquiry, which was launched in July, there had been a lack of caution around the use of vaginal mesh, The Guardian reports.

She said surgeons often believed the scandal-hit devices, which experts warn the dangers could be akin to thalidomide, were a ‘magic’ cure for incontinence.

Tireless fights by campaigners have helped gather momentum for a public inquiry into the implants. Senior doctors have said the scandal, which has seen at least 800 women sue the NHS and manufactures in the UK, is akin to thalidomide

Tireless fights by campaigners have helped gather momentum for a public inquiry into the implants. Senior doctors have said the scandal, which has seen at least 800 women sue the NHS and manufactures in the UK, is akin to thalidomide

Tireless fights by campaigners have helped gather momentum for a public inquiry into the implants. Senior doctors have said the scandal, which has seen at least 800 women sue the NHS and manufactures in the UK, is akin to thalidomide

The revelation was made at an Australian court case of 700 mesh-suffering women against manufacturer Johnson  Johnson. Battling tears, two of those bravely spoke out about how their lives have been destroyed since having the surgery, including Joanne Maninon (pictured)

The revelation was made at an Australian court case of 700 mesh-suffering women against manufacturer Johnson  Johnson. Battling tears, two of those bravely spoke out about how their lives have been destroyed since having the surgery, including Joanne Maninon (pictured)

The revelation was made at an Australian court case of 700 mesh-suffering women against manufacturer Johnson Johnson. Battling tears, two of those bravely spoke out about how their lives have been destroyed since having the surgery, including Joanne Maninon (pictured)

But she belittled ongoing campaigns launched by women to ban the devices which can easily erode inside women and leave them in a lifetime of pain, describing such attempts as ‘hysterical’.

What did Dr King say? 

Dr King, who also denied that surgeons were offered incentives to carry out the procedures, said: ‘The impacts that these have had on these women – we have seriously let them down.

‘But what phases me about this is the suggestion that the solution is to ban vaginal mesh products so that other people don’t suffer. I don’t want to defend all of my colleagues, but we’re not really callous. We don’t like it when we can’t fix everyone, we’re really bad at that.’ 

‘THE DAY BEFORE MESH SURGERY I RAN 5K, NOW I WET MYSELF’

A mother-of-five who had a vaginal mesh implant fitted for mild stress incontinence now has to rush to the toilet and has even wet herself on several occasions as a result of the procedure.

Julie Gilsennan, 41, from Liverpool, had an implant fitted on February 1 as she would experience leaking if she coughed, sneezed or lifted something heavy, which was impractical given her job as a paramedic.

Although she can now sneeze without leaking, Ms Gilsennan has been left with an overactive bladder that makes her desperate for the toilet within 20 minutes of drinking.

Previously highly active, Ms Gilsennan even ran 5km the day before having the implant fitted, yet she now struggles to move as she suffers unbearable pain.

The agony has even forced her to quit her highly-challenging career as a paramedic in order to work from home alone.

Ms Gilsennan was told she would need up to six weeks off work after having the mesh fitted, however, she has been unable to return to work as a paramedic and instead works from home processing complaints to the ambulance service.

She said: ‘I loved my job, I did it for 12 years. I miss being out on the road with colleagues and talking to people. Now I’m trapped inside my house.

‘I’m in immense pain permanently. It’s like a cheese wire, glass pain in my groin.

‘I also have constant pain across my hips as if I have arthritis. I can’t return to work as a paramedic.’

Previously highly active, Ms Gilsennan even ran 5km the day before having the implant fitted, yet she now struggles to move as she suffers unbearable pain

Previously highly active, Ms Gilsennan even ran 5km the day before having the implant fitted, yet she now struggles to move as she suffers unbearable pain

Previously highly active, Ms Gilsennan even ran 5km the day before having the implant fitted, yet she now struggles to move as she suffers unbearable pain

Joanna Maninon (middle right), who had her surgery five years ago, told the inquiry that she was advised it would take 10 days to recover - but she still suffers to this day. Gai Thompson (middle left), who had her surgery in 2008, spoke of similar problems

Joanna Maninon (middle right), who had her surgery five years ago, told the inquiry that she was advised it would take 10 days to recover - but she still suffers to this day. Gai Thompson (middle left), who had her surgery in 2008, spoke of similar problems

Joanna Maninon (middle right), who had her surgery five years ago, told the inquiry that she was advised it would take 10 days to recover – but she still suffers to this day. Gai Thompson (middle left), who had her surgery in 2008, spoke of similar problems

Revealing their horror at the inquiry, women described the pain from the mesh as being like ‘cut open and set alight’. Others have previously said it feels like cheese wire scraping against their insides.

Joanna Maninon, who had her surgery five years ago, told the inquiry that she was advised it would take 10 days to recover – but she still suffers to this day.

She said: ‘I can’t sit upright on a chair for longer than 15 minutes at a time due to the searing, burning pain that travels across my lower abdomen and into my pelvis.

‘I describe my pain as being cut open and set alight. A deep burning, searing ache that intensifies with movement.’

Gai Thompson, who had her surgery in 2008, spoke of similar problems. 

What did Johnson Johnson say? 

But Johnson Johnson denied any wrongdoing on its behalf – despite allegations of some surgeons being given six-figure sums and expensive trips abroad to push the implants. Lamborghinis and ski-trips were other incentives.

Gavin Fox-Smith, managing director of the pharmaceutical firm’s Australia and New Zealand division, offered an apology to those women who had not ‘experienced a successful outcome from their treatment’. 

He said: ‘We believe the evidence will show we have acted ethically and responsibly in the research, development, and supply of the products that are the subject of the proceedings.’

Other revelations from the inquiry 

On the first day of the inquiry in July, a French doctor, who was part of Johnson Johnson’s transvaginal mesh evaluation team, said he wouldn’t want his wife to undergo the procedure.

Dr Bernard Jacquetin made the revelation in an email, which also said he doesn’t think he is the only one concerned by the debilitating effects of mesh. His comments shocked the public gallery. 

While another doctor, who was unnamed, suggested that patients left in too much agony to have sex should instead try anal sex, it emerged last month.

What does the evidence say? 

Months back, MailOnline reported on a host of evidence that clearly shows adverse effects of the surgery to strike up to 40 per cent of women. Others suggest it could be as high as 75 per cent.

Such studies encouraged doctors to suspend the procedures in three US states, with the device being considered high-risk across America for nearly a decade, as officials accept that up to 40 per cent of women may experience injury. 

Senior doctors have already called for a public inquiry into its use in Britain, saying it could be akin to the thalidomide scandal. The procedure, used to treat childbirth problems, has seen more than 800 women sue the NHS and device manufacturers.

Unwilling to accept higher rates 

But English health officials have yet to acknowledge the risks of the brittle implants which can break into tiny fragments and cause nerve damage. Currently, the NHS and MHRA state only 1 to 3 per cent will experience complications such as pain. 

Its usage has been suspended in Scotland since 2014 pending a safety review, but hundreds of women are still believed to be having the surgery. And just last month the English MHRA insisted the mesh was safe.

Medics worry the most worrying complication is the need for the removal of the implant – which takes only 30 minutes to place inside a woman and then embeds into their vaginal wall and can prove complex to remove.   

HOW MANY WOMEN SUFFER?

According to the NHS and MHRA, the risk of vaginal mesh pain after an implant is between one and three per cent.

Yet, a study by Case Western Reserve University found that up to 42 per cent of patients experience complications.

Of which, 77 per cent report severe pain and 30 per cent claim to have a lost or reduced sex life.

Urinary infections have been reported in around 22 per cent of cases, while bladder perforation occurs in up to 31 per cent of incidences.

Critics of the implants say trials confirming their supposed safety have been small or conducted in animals, who are unable to describe pain or a loss of sex life.

According to Kath Samson, head of the Sling The Mesh campaign, surgeons often refuse to accept vaginal mesh implants are causing recipient’s pain, and are not obligated to report such complications anyway.

She said: ‘Less than 40 per cent of surgeons report vaginal mesh implant side effects.

‘In last 10 years, 126,000 mesh and tape implants have been fitted in England alone.

‘In that period around 7,800 women have gone into hospital with a mesh complication, but the number reported to the MHRA is just over 1,000.

‘Many more women would have experienced pain but never gone to hospital.’

 

Related Posts

  • No Related Posts