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'A huge win for campaigners': Thousands of vaginal mesh cases to be reviewed in England

Campaigners in Ireland are calling for a similar audit to be carried out here.

Image: Leah Farrell

THE ENGLISH GOVERNMENT has launched a retrospective audit of all women who had surgery involving a vaginal mesh implant since 2005.

The announcement comes after global scrutiny of these devices as thousands of women across the world – including in Ireland – are reporting life-changing complications after these procedures.

Vaginal mesh devices, which are made of a type of plastic called polypropelene, are used in surgeries to address stress urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse, conditions women can suffer after natural childbirth.

Reported complications include erosion of the mesh into the vaginal wall, chronic pain and recurrent urinary tract infections. Many affected women have also spoke about the negative impact it had on their sex lives, as they experience pain during intercourse.

The UK’s health watchdog NICE had already recently recommended a ban of one of these devices – the type commonly used to treat pelvic prolapse – advising that doctors only use it for research purposes.

vaginal mesh1 A piece of surgical mesh similar to that used in surgeries to treat stress incontinence. Source: Michelle Hennessy/

The watchdog said there were “serious but well-recognised safety concerns” around the use of this product.

Now the government in England has launched a full retrospective review of the cases of all women who had surgery since 2005. Sky News reports the results of the audit are expected to be announced in April after data is collected and analysed on patients’ conditions, the types of surgeries and any subsequent hospital admissions.


Women in Ireland who have experienced health problems after operations using mesh devices are calling for  the government here to launch a similar audit.

The Mesh Survivors Ireland campaign protested outside the Dáil last week before giving a presentation to a number of TDs inside.

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Speaking to at the protest, Lesley-Anne Stephens said she was told this would be her fix for stress urinary incontinence.

“As it is, I’m incontinent and in pain,” said Stephens, who, at 39, needs a walking stick for support.

In 2016, 728 patients in Ireland underwent a procedure to address pelvic prolapse while a further 735 had operations for stress urinary incontinence.

After the stories of a number of Irish woman were highlighted by, Health Minister Simon Harris ordered a report on the use of these devices from his department’s Chief Medical Officer. And last week Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his “sympathy and concern” for the women suffering from complications.

“Any response from the Government, the HSE and the Department of Health will be compassionate and understanding and respectful of the pain and suffering of anyone who is enduring complications as a result of an operation. Further, any actions taken by government will have to be guided by best clinical advice from the experts in the field and it will have to be evidence-based.”

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