Biomedical review finds failure rates in mesh treatments “unacceptably high”

It was also found that patients are not completely aware of risk when undergoing the procedure

Failure rates in various surgical mesh treatments have been found to be “unacceptably high”, according to a recently published comprehensive biomedical review. The study considered the findings of peer reviewed scientific articles which assessed its uses. It also called for more experiments to be conducted to assess how surgical mesh behaves in various bodily environments.

The review article was written by Professor of Materials Engineering at Trinity, David Taylor. Taylor used various findings from scientific and medical sources, while also relying on material tests and clinical case studies. The leading scientific journal, the Journal of the Mechanical Behaviour of Biomedical Materials, also published the material.

According to Taylor, “the use of surgical mesh to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence seems to provide another example in which new products have been developed that expand the use of existing materials without conducting the necessary experiments to properly understand the material, and how it will react in its new application”.

He noted what he thought was an “unacceptably high” frequency of mesh erosion, which occurred in “over 10% of cases, rising to almost 30% in some studies”. He added that “very severe consequences can result from mesh erosion, when mesh material damages the surrounding tissues”.

Surgical mesh is a fabric-like material, which medical professionals have used to repair hernias for over 50 years. The procedure has been used mainly on women, with the patient being “implanted with pieces of mesh in operations to correct urinary incontinence and prolapse of organs such as the vagina, which frequently occurs after childbirth”.

In many cases, the women have been “condemned to a lifetime of pain and discomfort”, as the mesh has damaged the surrounding tissues, but cannot be removed. Such procedures have been banned or restricted in the US, UK and Australia, among others. The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has also announced a pause on the use of the products until a full investigation of their risks is carried out.

While also noting that in the case of urinary incontinence products, erosion occurs “less often, around 2% to 3%”, he believed that “patients should be given more information to allow them to make an informed decision about the risks involved”.

He concluded by calling for further investigations, and said that failure was generally due to “bacterial infection, and poor surgical technique”. He added that “further work is needed, especially the examination of failed mesh products, to properly determine the underlying causes of the problem”.

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly is the current Assistant Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister Law student, and a former Deputy News Editor.