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Surgical Mesh — Where has the misinformation about it really been coming from?


All of those ads you’ve seen on television warning about the dangers of transvaginal mesh do not appear to be scaring away women from the controversial procedure.

Presented at the recent American Urological Association meeting in San Diego, of a survey of 99 women taken at Louisiana State University and Medical University of South Carolina urology clinics, three-quarters of women  said they would still consider mesh as an option to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI) or pelvic organ prolapse (POP).

Dr. Michelle Koski presented the findings to the May gathering of the American Urological Association meeting in San Diego. She says most of the women cited personal injury law firms as their source of information about surgical mesh.

“It’s a vulnerable population and they are getting all of this misinformation.”

Misinformation? It is sad, but true, that consumers often receive information about product defects from the field of lawyers and usually it is, sadly, after hundreds or thousands of consumers are injured or killed. But, the fact is what trial lawyers frequently convey in those ads is nothing that the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t said.

In 2008, the FDA issued a Safety Communication that mesh complications such as mesh erosion, infection and debilitating pain are complications that are “rare.”  By July 2011, the FDA revisited the issue saying, “serious complications associated with surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of pelvic organ prolapse are not rare.”

The FDA added that “transvaginally placed mesh in pelvic organ prolapse repair does not conclusively improve clinical outcomes over traditional nonmesh repair.”

Doesn’t exactly sound like a rousing endorsement for treatments using mesh.  Yet, polypropylene mesh implants are still being permanently implanted in women despite the fact that there are nearly 22-thousand lawsuits consolidated in one court in the Southern District of West Virginia and thousands more filed in state courts around the country by women with life-altering injuries, some of them permanent.

These are product liability lawsuits that claim synthetic mesh is defectively designed and should never be implanted in anyone.

Fortunately there are law firms that are getting the word out to women because the media seems to be largely absent from the controversy, unless there is a major win by a plaintiff in court.

There have been two to date – one $5.5 million jury award naming C.R. Bard in a California state court. That action on behalf of Christine Scott and her husband also named her implanting doctor accusing him of medical malpractice. The other case that received headlines was the February jury award of $11.1 million to South Dakota resident Linda Gross, who remains disabled and bedridden after hundreds of procedures to try and remove the pelvic floor mesh or mitigate the severe pain, erosion and complications she continues to suffer.

Both Johnson & Johnson (Linda Gross case) and Bard have announced they will appeal the jury verdicts.

The information concerning complications of mesh use in patients has increasingly developed over the years, but one must wonder where physicians are in the chain of information. Shouldn’t physicians have been giving patients information about ALL the potential complications; rather than, in some cases, downplaying the complications and characterizing the use of mesh as some sort of magic bullet for the patient? What does it say about physician-patient communication if Dr. K’s statistics are to be believed and 57% of patients heard about problems with surgical mesh from legal advertising and only 9% from the medical community?

Perhaps with a relatively miniscule 99 patient interview group, Dr. K should rethink her statement about “misinformation” or direct it to the actual parties that are responsible for the misinformation being disseminated about this risky and controversial procedure. In the alternative, perhaps she should interview the thousands of patients in varying degrees of what people like Linda Gross have endured.

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