Recently, the television news program “60 Minutes” aired a segment that I can only refer to as irresponsible and one-sided. The story claimed that the use of gynecological mesh for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse can inflict “life-altering pain and injury,” focusing solely on reports from a recent lawsuit against a manufacturer of the mesh devices. While I would never downplay the health concerns of any patient, I wanted to reassure all of my past, present, and future patients that the findings being presented are in no way representative of the results I have seen in my own practice.
My professional career has been dedicated to seeking out the most effective treatments for urogynecologic and intimate health concerns. I have personally used hundreds of gynecological mesh products on patients who I deemed would most benefit from this technology. It is up to the physician to determine a patient’s eligibility for this treatment and to use their surgical skill to ensure proper implementation. There are many additional factors not being presented in the "60 Minutes" segment that relate to patient history and physician training, skill, and experience. Without these crucial elements for surgical success, there is no way they can present an accurate representation of the treatment process.
In mid-May, the Boston Globe shared a statement from FDA officials regarding the allegations against the use of gynecological mesh from this particular manufacturer. In the statement, the officials shared that the FDA conducted extensive testing on both the resin used to create these products as well as the finished products after allegations were being made against their safety, and confirmed that there were no new safety concerns or information to contradict their original clearance for the devices. When they asked “60 Minutes” for their independent research, the FDA was told they couldn’t receive it until after their segment aired.
If the news organization was truly trying to protect patients from something that could seriously impact their health, why would they not share their findings with the one organization that controls regulation?
Several professional organizations, including the American Urogynecologic Society, the American Urology Association, and the FDA, maintain their support of the use of vaginal mesh for the surgical treatment of stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, as do I. Since many women have had mesh pelvic organ prolapse repairs without complications and there is no convincing evidence that vaginal mesh placement can cause an autoimmune response, there is no reason to remove vaginal mesh in asymptomatic patients. In patients who have had vaginal mesh surgery for pelvic organ prolapse and are satisfied with their results, there is no need to take any action other than routine check-ups and follow-up care.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding a previous or planned surgery, or more generally about the use of gynecological mesh in the treatment of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, I urge you to call our office at 303.322.0500.
-- Dr. Oscar A. Aguirre, Founder and Medical Director for Aguirre Specialty Care