515 procedures involving use of controversial vaginal mesh implants to treat incontinence and prolapse

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A controversial procedure used to treat incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) following child birth has been carried out over 500 times on women in the North West over the past five years, the ‘Journal’ has learned.

The use of vaginal mesh implants to treat SUI and POP has been suspended in Scotland since 2014, amid claims their use can lead to side effects, including chronic pain, in up to 10 per cent of women who undergo the procedure.

This week 60 women, led by Banbridge native Jackie Harvey, visited Westminster and called on MPs to ban the use of synthetic tape entirely. However, the ‘Journal’ has learned that the procedure remains a routine treatment for the conditions in the Western Trust and elsewhere in the North.

Figures released by the local health authority under Freedom of Information legislation show that 515 procedures were carried out on woman in the North West between April 2012 and April 2017. Four hundred and ten procedures involved the introduction of tension free vaginal tape while 18 procedures involved the removal or partial removal the tape.

A further 81 related procedures also involving the use of mesh were carried out during the same period.

While the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has acknowledged “there is some controversy over the use of mesh” and that significant complications may arise for some women its view is that it is still the most “effective form of treatment for the distressing effects of SUI and POP” for many women. The RCOG recommends operations using mesh should only be performed by specialists with expertise in the technique, and only after a full discussion with the patient.