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Pryers have been instructed by a number of women who have suffered serious injury as a result of being fitted with transvaginal mesh to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP).

This mesh is usually made of polypropylene, a form of plastic. It is inserted into the abdomen through the vagina. It is then attached to various ligaments in the abdomen to support organs, typically the bladder, uterus and rectum, which have suffered prolapse caused by the weakening of muscles, often as a result of childbirth, hysterectomy or menopause.

While, in some cases, the use of mesh have provided relief from the symptoms of a range of very distressing conditions, it is not clear that, overall, it has produced better outcomes than established methods of surgery that do not involve mesh. Indeed, in some cases, the use of mesh has caused some very serious problems that do not occur where mesh is not used.

Risks

The main problems occur where the mesh erodes its way through the vaginal wall, or where a sharp edge of the mesh penetrates an organ. These conditions can be very serious and require surgery to remove the mesh. The mesh was intended to remain in the patient permanently and consequently it is often very difficult and sometimes impossible to remove it. Blood vessels and tissue grow around the mesh and it often requires many operations to remove it, one piece at a time.

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has studied the use and safety of transvaginal mesh for the last few years and has issue several warnings, stating that the risks appear to be considerably greater than expected; that repair with mesh might not be more effective than non-mesh repair; but might expose patients to greater risks.

Legal options

Patients injured as a result of surgery involving mesh have two principle options for obtaining compensation: –

  1. A product liability claim against the manufacturer. In some a claim, it would be alleged that the safety of the mesh is lower than the patient was entitled to expect and that it was possible for the manufacturer to have discovered this if appropriate tests and trials had been performed.
  2. A clinical negligence claim against the surgeon who fitted the mesh, or the NHS Trust under which the surgery was performed. It might be alleged that a mesh repair was not an appropriate option for the patient; that it was fitted incompetently; or that the patient was not warned of the risks associated with mesh and the alternatives to its use.

Time limits

In either case, court proceedings must be started within three years of the date on which the patient learnt that she had suffered a significant injury and that it might be the result of mesh being used in surgery.

Additionally, in a product liability claim, court proceedings must be started within ten years of the date on which the mesh was supplied by the manufacturer. This is the date on which it left the control of the manufacturer, probably to a distributor or an NHS Trust. It is not the date of surgery but will be considerably earlier than that.

Next steps

If you or a loved one has suffered complications following surgery using transvaginal mesh, please contact Pryers’ solicitors as soon as possible.

If you are not sure exactly what your operation involved and whether mesh was used, we will investigate and find out for you.

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