Stevenage woman’s relief after review condemns surgical mesh implants that ruined her life
- Credit: Archant
A woman in agony since having a mesh implant inserted to fix a bladder problem 13 years ago has welcomed a review into the medical procedure that has concluded that such surgery has ruined thousands of women’s lives with “relentless physical pain like razors inside their bodies”.
Carole Davies, who lives in Stevenage, has suffered agonising pain since having a tension-free vaginal tape operation due to a prolapsed bladder in 2007, when synthetic mesh was inserted to replace the weakened tissue.
It left her unable to stand for long, walk far, or play with her grandchildren.
During major surgery to remove some of the mesh last October, the surgeon found it had eroded through Carole’s urethra and created a lot of scar tissue on her bowel.
In recent years, thousands of men and women nationally have come forward with horrendous accounts of how vaginal, rectal and hernia mesh surgery has led to life-changing complications, with a Sling the Mesh campaign mounted to raise awareness.
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In July 2018 prolapse and incontinence mesh operations were suspended pending the outcome of an independent review, commissioned by then Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt and led by Baroness Cumberlege.
This review has now concluded and makes nine recommendations, including that the government must immediately issue an apology on behalf of the healthcare system, that a patient safety commissioner is appointed, and that the regulator of medicines and medical devices – MHRA – is overhauled.
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Baroness Cumberlege said: “Taken together, these recommendations are wide ranging and radical.”
She also said: “If this government and the healthcare system ignores our review, and another intervention damages people at such a scale, they will not, and should not, be forgiven.
“Many women have suffered terrible complications following their mesh surgery. An operation they thought would cure them has ruined their lives. They have lost their independence, their careers, life partners, sex life, even their ability to go for a walk. Their relentless physical pain is like razors inside their bodies. They feel helpless, alone and ignored. Some have suicidal thoughts.
“We have conducted many reviews and we have never encountered anything like this - the intensity of suffering, the fact it has lasted for decades, and the sheer scale.” The suspension of mesh operations to treat stress urinary incontinence will only ever be lifted if strict conditions can be met. Even then, Baroness Cumberlege says the procedure must only be used as a last resort, and with a patient in full knowledge of the risks. She said: “On this basis, we expect that the number of pelvic mesh procedures in the future will be tiny. Gone are the days when women in their tens of thousands had mesh implanted and were told it was the gold standard.”
She continued: “Innovation in medical care has done wonderful things and saved many lives. But innovation without pre-market testing, post-marketing surveillance and long-term monitoring is quite simply dangerous.
“The fact is that the healthcare system does not know the scale of the problem we were asked to investigate. It is flying blind.” Baroness Cumberlege wants the government to immediately set up a task force to implement the review’s recommendations.
She said:”Our recommendations will improve the lives of people who have been harmed and make the system safer in the future. This report must not be left on a shelf to gather dust. Implementation needs to be approached with a new urgency and determination.” Carole said: “Baroness Cumberlege certainly did an outstanding job with the review, but there are still a few issues that have to be resolved. Some people are still suffering really bad problems with hernia mesh, but the current suspension only applies to vaginal mesh.
“We also need to know when the government is going to implement the points raised in the review. What we do not want to see is that the report gathers dust on a shelf in Parliament.”
Regarding the idea that mesh implants could be used for a tiny number of patients in the future, Carole is horrified. She said: “I would not like anyone else to go through the trauma we have suffered. Polypropelene mesh shrinks, twists and goes brittle, causing the most excruciating pain to patients. I will never be the same after the damage I have suffered.”