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Thousands could have been spared mesh surgery complications: review

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A surgical mesh kit similar to the ones which have been used

A surgical mesh kit similar to the ones which have been used

PA

A surgical mesh kit similar to the ones which have been used

Thousands of women could have been spared complications from mesh surgery, a damning new review has concluded.

A number of mesh-injured women said their doctors, surgeons or GPs "ignored or dismissed" their concerns.

"Some clinicians' reactions ranged from 'it's all in your head' to 'these are women's issues' or 'it's that time of life'," the report states. "For the women concerned this was tantamount to a complete denial of their concerns and being written off by a system that was supposed to care."

The review says that women have also raised concerns about "missing or altered medical records". And many women said they were told the treatment was a "new gold standard".

The treatment has been used in the pelvis for 20 years, but the review said that its "long-term risk profile" is still unknown.

Nearly 7,000 women in Northern Ireland had vaginal mesh implants between 2005 and 2015.

The Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review was so concerned by tales of suffering from women who had been fitted with mesh, that it recommended a pause in mesh procedures for stress urinary incontinence in 2018 - meaning procedures should only carried out in exceptional circumstances.

"The review was formed to address the concerns raised by women, but surely others could and should have listened and taken action before," the report states.

It says that in 2003, guidance on mesh for stress urinary incontinence recommended only experienced surgeons should operate and an audit of numbers of procedures, outcome measures and adverse events should be kept.

"There were no checks on implementation of the guidance nor enforcement and no consequences for not following it," the report states.

"Had it been implemented, it is likely that many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women would have been spared mesh complications."

An "apology is due", and support is required for those who have suffered avoidable harm, the review added.

But it stopped short of recommending a ban.

The review details how women were not always told about the risks of mesh before their procedures and how some women who have faced life-changing consequences only had 'relatively minor' stress urinary incontinence at the time.

"The complications that followed have reduced so many to a shadow of their former selves, taking a terrible toll on partnerships and family life," the report states. Kath Sansom, founder of the campaign group Sling The Mesh, said: "The report is hard hitting and recognises the total failure in patient safety, regulation and oversight in the UK.

"It also makes it very clear that our medical establishment is deeply entrenched in institutional denial and misogyny.

"While we welcome all of the recommendations, there is no glory in knowing thousands of women have been maimed by mesh since the late 1990s then ignored when they asked for help, suffering debilitating, life altering and irreversible pain."

Belfast Telegraph