Health officials have today announced they will launch an investigation into the scandal-hit vaginal mesh implants.
The Department of Health and Social Care will begin a national audit to determine exactly how many women have been affected by the controversial devices in England.
Thousands of furious victims claim to have been left to endure unbearable pain and on the brink of suicide from the ‘barbaric’ procedure, often dished out following childbirth problems.
But the true percentage of complications is unknown, with the Government having repeatedly been accused of sweeping the issues under the carpet.
Campaigners have welcomed the decision to investigate the usage of mesh, amid mounting pressure for a complete ban, backed by MailOnline.
NHS England estimates 100,000 women have undergone the procedure since it was introduced for surgeons to treat incontinence and prolapse in the 1990s.
The Department of Health and Social Care will begin a national audit to determine exactly how many women have been affected the controversial devices in England
Chiefs have remained adamant that only three per cent of patients will experience complications of vaginal mesh, which can curl, twist and cut through tissue.
However, an array of trials into mesh – made of brittle plastic – have revealed the true rate of serious side effects is likely to be nearer the 10 per cent figure.
At least 4,800 women have suffered lacerations and nerve damage from the mesh in England, but only 1,000 have reported it to the MHRA.
However, campaigners stress these are just the tip of the iceberg and that actually there are thousands more – but they have been kept silent.
Despite the risks, which have been widely publicised in recent months, most women experience no problem and doctors are adamant the procedure is beneficial.
Kath Sansom, founder of Sling The Mesh, welcomed the announcement. The audit will begin in the coming weeks.
She told MailOnline: ‘It is time this damage stopped. There are no long term studies that truly capture the level of suffering, women are ignored and belittled by surgeons who do not log problems on any database, women are on the brink of suicide.
‘And all for an operation that was not life saving but was supposed to improve quality of life.
‘We have heard of surgeons who tell patients the implant is like a soft ribbon, another says it hugs the bladder like a teddy bear, others surgeons deny it is mesh and insist it is tape, some say it is not polypropylene it is plastic yet it is the same thing.
‘The truth its it is a harsh piece of plastic with razor sharp edges in the most private part of a woman’s body and when it goes wrong it causes total devastation.’
She added: ‘The biggest tragedy is that it has taken so long for the Government to sit up and take notice.
‘Tribute must go to all of the campaigners across the UK who have worked so hard raising awareness on this issue, some since 2007.
‘Sadly it took a journalist being mesh injured for it to get the widespread media coverage it deserves and for the Department of Health and Social Care to know they could no longer bury their heads in the sand.’
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on surgical mesh implants demanded the audit, which is expected to be completed in April.
GRANDFATHER, 65, SLAMS THE CONTROVERSIAL VAGINAL MESH PROCEDURE THAT LEFT HIS BELOVED WIFE SUICIDAL
A 65-year-old grandfather slammed the controversial vaginal mesh procedure that destroyed the life of his beloved wife and left her contemplating suicide.
John Sharman, from Reading, revealed Lynne’s heartbreaking account of the scandal-hit surgery in December.
The father-of-three said it left her in unbearable pain and unable to have sex, following the emergence of hundreds of similar stories.
John Sharman, from Reading, revealed Lynne’s heartbreaking account of the scandal-hit surgery in December
Speaking to MailOnline, he explained her painstaking ordeal from a man’s point-of-view, often forgotten amid the scores of women who have spoken.
Mr Sharman announced he has sometimes thought about leaving Mrs Sharman, who he has been married to for 43 years, due to the effect the mesh has had on their marriage.
Mr Sharman, who met his wife at a chess club, told MailOnline: ‘It does impact your relationship and now I’m more of her carer than I am her lover and a husband.
‘She has been left in constant pain which has totally altered our sex life, social life and the way we operate and what we do.’
Patients already given vaginal mesh implants will be tracked and followed, allowing for health chiefs to get the clearest answer yet on their safety.
MP Owen Smith, chair of the APPG on surgical mesh implants, announced he was ‘delighted’ that the Government has listened to concerns.
‘Over the last two years I’ve been urging Ministers to conduct an investigation to fully determine problems related to mesh surgery,’ he said.
‘I’m delighted the government has listened to our concerns and has now agreed to undertake this audit to get a better understanding of complications related to mesh.
‘I hope the audit will provide crucial answers about the proportion of women adversely affected by mesh surgery.’
Sling The Mesh has more than quadrupled in size since last April when the scandal came to light, with 5,300 women now backing their cause.
The campaign group blasted the Government’s ‘weak’ decision back in December to recommend a ban on vaginal mesh implants for one procedure.
Nice, which advises the NHS, announced the surgery should only be banned for prolapse – when organs fall out of place, and not incontinence.
It is believed of the women in Sling The Mesh who have been given the controversial implant, three quarters were fitted with the device to treat their incontinence.
The Nice verdict came after the Government released its three-year investigation into the mesh scandal last September. It rejected calls for a ban at the time
It followed the landmark news from New Zealand that all forms of pelvic mesh would be banned – becoming the first major country to do so.
WHAT ARE VAGINAL MESH IMPLANTS? THE CONTROVERSIAL DEVICES THAT HAVE BEEN COMPARED TO THALIDOMIDE
WHAT ARE VAGINAL MESH IMPLANTS?
Vaginal mesh implants are devices used by surgeons to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence in women.
Usually made from synthetic polypropylene, a type of plastic, the implants are intended to repair damaged or weakened tissue in the vagina wall.
Other fabrics include polyester, human tissue and absorbable synthetic materials.
Some women report severe and constant abdominal and vaginal pain after the surgery. In some, the pain is so severe they are unable to have sex.
Infections, bleeding and even organ erosion has also been reported.
Vaginal mesh implants are devices used by surgeons to treat pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence in women
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MESH?
Mini-sling: This implant is embedded with a metallic inserter. It sits close to the mid-section of a woman’s urethra. The use of an inserter is thought to lower the risk of cutting during the procedure.
TVT sling: Such a sling is held in place by the patient’s body. It is inserted with a plastic tape by cutting the vagina and making two incisions in the abdomen. The mesh sits beneath the urethra.
TVTO sling: Inserted through the groin and sits under the urethra. This sling was intended to prevent bladder perforation.
TOT sling: Involves forming a ‘hammock’ of fibrous tissue in the urethra. Surgeons often claim this form of implant gives them the most control during implantation.
Kath Samson, a journalist, is the founder of Sling The Mesh
Ventral mesh rectopexy: Releases the rectum from the back of the vagina or bladder. A mesh is then fitted to the back of the rectum to prevent prolapse.
HOW MANY WOMEN SUFFER?
According to the NHS and MHRA, the risk of vaginal mesh pain after an implant is between one and three per cent.
But a study by Case Western Reserve University found that up to 42 per cent of patients experience complications.
Of which, 77 per cent report severe pain and 30 per cent claim to have a lost or reduced sex life.
Urinary infections have been reported in around 22 per cent of cases, while bladder perforation occurs in up to 31 per cent of incidences.
Critics of the implants say trials confirming their supposed safety have been small or conducted in animals, who are unable to describe pain or a loss of sex life.
Kath Samson, founder of the Sling The Mesh campaign, said surgeons often refuse to accept vaginal mesh implants are causing pain.
She warned that they are not obligated to report such complications anyway, and as a result, less than 40 per cent of surgeons do.
Officials in the country declared in December they would remove the controversial implants from supply and limit the use of surgical mesh products.
Tiresome fights by campaigners, backed by MailOnline, has also led to Australian health officials making a similar move for prolapse operations.
Watchdogs in the country banned the use of vaginal mesh implants for prolapse earlier in the same month after a review found benefits ‘do not outweigh the risks’.
Vaginal mesh has been subject of various legal proceedings across the world, with figures suggesting more than 100,000 are suing manufacturers of the devices.
The scandal came to light last April, when the NHS tried to dodge media attention over the implants that left hundreds of women in agony.
I’m delighted the government has listened to our concerns and has now agreed to undertake this audit to get a better understanding of complications related to mesh
MP Owen Smith, chair of the APPG on surgical mesh implants
Senior doctors immediately called for a public inquiry into the controversial mesh, with some claiming the scandal could be akin to thalidomide.
At the time, 800 women were suing the NHS and device manufacturers. However, it is unsure how many women are now looking to take action in Britain.
Mesh, introduced 20 years ago and dubbed ‘gold-standard’, was promoted as a quick, cheap alternative to complex surgery for incontinence and prolapse.
Because it did not require specialist training to implant, victims of the procedure have since begged for tougher regulations to conduct such surgery.
Vaginal mesh has been considered a high-risk device for nearly a decade in the US, with bodies accepting up to 40 per cent of women may experience injury.
Some studies, published in an array of scientific journals, have shown that pain, erosion and perforation from the surgery can strike up to 75 per cent of women.
The alarming evidence prompted officials in three US states to suspend the practice and saw them call for an urgent review into its safety.
Scottish officials asked for it to be suspended in Scotland in 2014 pending a similar review, but hundreds of women are still believed to be having the surgery.
Leading mesh manufacturer Johnson & Johnson was forced to pay out $57 million last September to a woman fitted with the implant.
Ella Ebaugh, 51, from Philadelphia, was awarded the eight-figure sum after a jury found the company to be negligent and its product defective.
‘I’VE BEEN ON THE BRINK OF SUICIDE. MY KIDS KEPT ME GOING’
Janette Nelson, 43, was left suicidal after being with a vaginal mesh implant
A mother-of-three has revealed she was on the brink of suicide after suffering agonising pain from a vaginal mesh implant she had fitted.
Janette Nelson, 43, from Newtownards, Northern Ireland, said the only think that kept her going was her children, but she still battles guilt every day as she depends on them to help her wash, dress and even catheterise after the procedure left her unable to control her bladder.
The former hairdresser also blames her implant for the breakdown of her relationship as her boyfriend left her when the pain was too severe for her to have sex.
Unable to work, her career has also been destroyed.
‘My children lost their mummy’
Ms Nelson had the most common type of mesh, known as TVT, fitted in March 2012 in an attempt to cure her urinary stress incontinence.
She said: ‘Immediately once my tape was fitted I woke up with excruciating pain in my groin; its indescribable.’
Just one week later, Ms Nelson wet herself while out with her children and now relies on her eldest daughter to help her catheterise every day.
Due to the excruciating pain of the mesh, Ms Nelson has been forced to rely on her mother and sister to help her raise her children.
Ms Nelson, 43, pictured with her daughters Bryanne (bottom), 17, and Zofie, 12
She said: ‘My children lost their mummy. I’ve been on the brink of suicide.
‘My kids kept me going. I was useless as a mum but I’m still their mum. It’s all been about me for the past few years.’
‘My boyfriend left me because of it’
As well as affecting her as a parent, Ms Nelson also blames the implant for the loss of her love life and career.
She said: ‘I had a boyfriend when this started but the sex was excruciating, neither of us could cope with it. My boyfriend left me because of it.
‘I used to work as a hairdresser; always on my feet, always very confident, but now I can hardly walk and I can’t control my bladder so I can’t work. It’s really knocked my confidence.’