Following thousands of reports about serious injuries among women, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel will begin examining the safety of surgical mesh on Sept. 8 and 9.
Surgical mesh is implanted during transvaginal mesh surgery, the treatment for Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) and Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). The procedure is performed to repair weak or stretched vaginal tissue, often after childbirth.
The panel’s review comes almost two months after the FDA’s July 13 public safety advisory on surgical mesh and as special interests step into the debate about a possible surgical mesh recall.
In the July 13 advisory, the FDA said transvaginal POP repair with mesh has no advantage over traditional non-mesh repair. The FDA’s finding was based on a review of scientific literature published between 2006 and 2011.
Between 2005 and 2010, more than 3,800 women had reported complications and injuries following transvaginal mesh surgery, according to the FDA.
The most prevalent complaint was mesh erosion within the body, but other injuries included bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse, organ perforation, vaginal scarring, muscular and emotional problems. Remedies include corrective surgery, hospitalization and intensive follow-up medical treatment.
On August 25, 2011, Public Citizen, a Washington D.C.-based consumer advocacy group, called for a recall of all non-absorbable synthetic material used in transvaginal mesh surgery. It also wants a reclassification of the approval process for new surgical mesh products.
The same day, a coalition of 600 pelvic surgeons submitted the FDA a letter challenging its findings about the risk for complications during transvaginal mesh surgery. The letter was obtained by the CommonHealth medical website. Among their challenges, the surgeons argued mesh erosion is not a major complication.
In 2010, approximately 300,000 women in the U.S. had surgery to repair POP, including 75,000 of whom had surgical mesh transvaginally implanted, according to the FDA.
Nine companies manufacture transvaginal mesh products, including Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson. Bloomberg News reported one recommendation from the FDA staff administration would require the manufacturers to submit additional safety data to regulators.
The FDA cleared 85 mesh devices to treat pelvic organ prolapse from 1992 to 2010.