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Don't suffer in silence' Cambridgeshire doctor tells women in pain from vaginal mesh implants

By Gemma Gardner

In addition to removal operations, less invasive non-surgical treatments are also available to those in discomfort from their vaginal mesh implant
In addition to removal operations, less invasive non-surgical treatments are also available to those in discomfort from their vaginal mesh implant

At least 500 removal operations now carried out each year in England

A Cambridgeshire doctor is encouraging women to not “suffer in silence” after an NHS review found hundreds are undergoing surgery each year to have vaginal mesh implants removed.

The report by NHS Digital shows that in each year since 2008, surgeons have performed at least 500 removal operations in England.

The implants are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence after childbirth, but some can cut into the vagina and cause severe discomfort.

But Dr Helen Johnson, consultant urogynecologist at Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust, is encouraging women to speak to a healthcare professional about their problem as a priority as alternatives to mesh are available.

Campaigners say that the report does not show the extent of the problem as it does not include private patients or women going to GPs for pain relief medication or antibiotics to treat urinary infections.

In a Parliamentary debate on the use of the implants, Jackie Doyle-Price, junior minister at the Department of Health, said it was a tragedy that women who had put their trust in the medical establishment had “come out with the most debilitating injuries”.

Labour’s Emma Hardy, who secured the Parliamentary debate on the issue, led calls to suspend the use of surgical mesh and for the government to consider launching a full public inquiry.

Dr Johnson said patients are now too scared by the mesh complications to seek treatment.

“As a healthcare professional, committed to helping women regain their confidence and quality of life following a diagnosis of stress urinary incontinence, it worries me that so many women are apparently avoiding expert help and the opportunity to explore a successful treatment plan,” Dr Johnson said.

“As such, I encourage women to take those first steps towards discussing their condition with a GP. There is really nothing to be frightened or embarrassed about and I feel some of the less invasive non-surgical treatments available should now be at the forefront of any discussions.”

Dr Johnson concluded: “While it’s always important that women are encouraged to report symptoms and that complaints are addressed, it’s vital that recent reports do not erode the opportunity for women to understand their choices for treatment and see them resigned to living with uncomfortable and often embarrassing conditions such as stress urinary incontinence.

“There are now increasingly popular and minimally invasive treatments widely available as an alternative to mesh implants and the more traditional surgical procedures, and I urge women to speak to their doctor or nurse about these options and remember that it is all about their decision, their choice.”

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