Mesh repair for vaginal prolapse is a commonly performed surgical procedure…
And while many women undergo successful mesh repair surgery, unfortunately mesh repair is not always without potential risks and complications.
Complications of mesh repair can include painful intercourse, pelvic infection, bleeding and erosion when the mesh protrudes through the wall of the vagina. At times the mesh can be very difficult to remove owing to scar tissue and the woman’s own tissues growing through the mesh during the repair process.
This personal account of failed mesh repair was sent to us by one of our readers, Linda who has kindly given us permission to print her story.
Linda was keen to share her mesh repair experience with other women in the hope of helping them avoid a hasty decision to undergo vaginal mesh repair. Linda’s honest and moving account highlights the physical and emotional impact that failed vaginal repair surgery can have on a woman. It also demonstrates the importance of pelvic floor exercise, being fully informed and understanding the potential risks associated with vaginal mesh surgery before entering into it.
Please note before reading:
Most women having mesh repair prolapse surgery do not experience complicated outcomes such as the one described below. The following letter has not been published in an attempt to alarm or create fear. It has been published for the purposes of assisting women to make fully informed decisions about their pelvic health, and also for information and support for those women who do experience mesh erosion to know that they are not alone in their experiences. Pelvic Exercises welcomes positive accounts of mesh repair to publish to reassure women and provide a balance to the following account. Please do not hesitate to send us your positive experience following mesh repair.
Linda writes…I’m a working lady. I am fifty years old. I have now had surgery five times now to fix my pelvic floor problem. Two to put mesh slings in, and three to remove the mesh. Here is my story…
Between 2005 to this day, a new procedure came out (slings and mesh repair) and doctors were keen to do these procedures. Women like me believed that it was the answer to our pelvic floor problems. Some doctors were keen to advise me that mesh repair was the answer to my problem but did not promote pelvic floor exercise as a first option.
My first experience of finding out something was wrong 24 weeks after my vaginal mesh repair was the tightening pelvic pain, bleeding and vaginal discharge.
I presented at the Emergency Department and they told me I had mesh erosion and I needed to go back to the surgeon who put the mesh in to get it removed, because he knew where he had positioned it. I then had surgery to remove all the mesh – another six weeks off work.
Six months later I was experiencing pelvic pain again. I was then told that only part of the mesh had been removed. I was furious. I lost faith in my specialist and depression hit like a ton of bricks.
What started next was a frustrating 18 months of trying to find a surgeon to remove the rest of the mesh and everyone kept saying my situation was complicated…great.
To find a doctor to remove the mesh became extremely frustrating and humiliating. I was accused of doctor shopping. I kept going backwards and forwards to surgeons to seek what information I could and because of this I became classed as this ‘mad woman’ in their eyes.
This caused me an awful lot of stress, depression, time and a lot of money in seeing specialists. What my children and husband saw was a strong independent woman fall to pieces.They had no idea why their mother was experiencing depression…they were my backbone in all of this. I love them all. xxxx
After 18 months I found two surgeons, two wonderful surgeons and I thank them with all my heart. It was a very complicated procedure – easy to put in, but very hard to remove. I now feel A MILLION TIMES better with the vaginal mesh out. It gave me pelvic pain, infection after infection, irritation after irritation; I had no choice to get it out. Yes I leak a little, no more than I did in the first place. I’m hoping with time my pelvic floor exercises will help to make my pelvic floor muscles stronger and I will use the Contiform to help stop the leakage when I need to. I still have a way to go to heal and continue to build my pelvic floor exercises which I know work over time.
I know there will be good days and bad days, but having the mesh in was a bad day every day. You know when you get a splinter and it becomes sore because your body is trying to get rid of it. It was a foreign body and my body didn’t like it, causing irritation, infection after infection and more than anything else… extreme pain. The surgeon explained the mesh had rolled up on its self – like getting a shoe lace at each end and turning it round and around, causing tightness.
I was also accused of having the pain implanted on my brain, but now I have no pain for the first time in three years. I asked my surgeons after surgery if I had been making that pelvic pain up. They said from what they saw and the way the mesh had positioned itself, there was no way I was imaging it. That’s when they told me about the shoelace.
I can only speak about my own issue, but I am aware of so many women trying to find a doctor to remove their mesh. What I can do is shout from the roof tops to consider all your options before surgery and do your pelvic floor exercises and keep them going under the guidance of a professional physiotherapist. Be patient because your pelvic floor muscles take time to build. Do not go for the quick fix like I did!
After things had gone so terrible wrong I started to research and it is with your website, good books and pelvic floor instructions along with going to a knowledgeable physiotherapist. I am now on my way to some form of recovery.
My story is painful to read, but true. I have told myself it’s not pleasant to have this everyday and at times with bad days, anxiety takes over, I try and tell myself it’s not life threatening either.
I hope this will help many women to read and gain knowledge, before making any decisions about mesh repair and sling surgery.
Thanks for reading my story
All the best Linda
If you suffer from undiagnosed pelvic pain after pelvic surgery you are advised to contact your treating specialist. If you suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction associated with mesh repair surgery, a physiotherapist trained in continence and women’s health may be able to assist with your recovery. To find a women’s health physiotherapist contact The Australian Physiotherapy Association or The Continence Foundation of Australia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Inside Out – the Essential Women’s Guide to Pelvic Support, along with Dr Judith Goh Urogynaecologist. The Inside Out exercise DVD and book show women how to strengthen the pelvic floor and exercise effectively with pelvic floor safe exercises.