Mesh implant operations are up to nine times riskier than admitted by surgeons and the NHS
- Credit: Archant
A women’s operation using mesh implants is up to nine times riskier than warned about in patient safety leaflets in hospitals across England, according to new figures.
The implants, used to treat incontinence and prolapse, can cause problems for one in 11 women (8.58%), according to hospital episode statistics (HES).
However, most surgeons and NHS paperwork say risks are low, standing at just one per cent, one in 100 women, rising to three per cent which is one in 30 women.
The figures show 471 women had their mesh implants either totally or partially removed in 2015 to 2016.
But for that same year the MHRA says there were 171 adverse incidents reported.
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Sling The Mesh campaigner Ann Boni, who sat on the English Group Working Party into mesh safety, said: “This is not the low risk operation they would have everybody believe.
“Even the HES data is not an accurate snapshot as it only records those who have been in hospital.
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“There is a whole army of women out there suffering, either being told their pain has nothing to do with their mesh implant or they have things like recurring water infections going back and forth to their GP for antibiotics, but going nowhere near a hospital.
“Others going back to GPs for repeat prescriptions of high dose painkillers and nerve blockers to deal with leg and stomach pain that can take your breath away.
“Those stories are not recorded in the HES data. There are many more women suffering complications.
“It is time for this operation to be stopped. The risks are too high.
“The only way to know how many are suffering is with a national registry, like there is for hip implants. Only when that is in place will we see the true scale of this disaster.”
The latest figures come from the HES database which is released for all hospital procedures at the end of each financial year.
The number quoted by the NHS comes from the Government’s health watchdog, the MHRA, which says their figure comes from a range of different sources including a surgeon database - which is not compulsory to report to.
Ms Boni resigned from the EGWP in 2014 amid claims of a whitewash over their unwillingness to discuss the fundamental safety issue surrounding these meshes and not including essential information in their independent review.
The same happened last month when Scottish campaigners Elaine Holmes and Olive McIlroy resigned because they said the Scottish review had missed out an entire chapter or risk including information from a medical expert who said mesh implants were not safe.
The latest HES figures show that:
• At its peak in 2012 to 2013, a total of 12,109 women were given mesh implants to treat incontinence on the NHS.
• Last year 2015/6, that number dropped to 6,794 - almost half.
• In the last decade a total of 97,964 women in England have been implanted with mesh to treat incontinence.
• The number of TVT and TVTO operations have been slowly falling off for the last three years.
• There are no updated figures for Wales as they stopped publishing data online and in Ireland the figures have never been published online.
In Scotland they use a different system known as ISD - but that information is not available to the public.
Ms Boni said: “Is it dropping because women are hearing about the risks and are voting with their feet or is it because surgeons are gradually realising this isn’t the gold standard treatment that it was cracked up to be and fear litigation?
“Patient campaigners have long known that mesh implants were aggressively marketed without long term, robust, clinical trials to back up their safety - what a very great shame so many women have had to suffer because the NHS refused to listen to us.”
• The MHRA said: “Between January 2016 and December 2016, MHRA received 171 adverse incident reports relating to gynaecological mesh to treat incontinence.
“These figures include a range of recognised complications related to this type of surgical procedure and do not necessarily indicate a fault with any particular device and because there is no time limit on reporting, trends need to be interpreted using other data.
“Reported incidents may not necessarily represent individual patients as an individual could experience adverse incidents at different times which result in separate reports.
“Additionally, an adverse incident report could contain a number of complications being experienced by a single patient.
“Patient safety is our highest priority and we continue to monitor this issue.
“MHRA encourages anyone who suspects they have had a complication after having a mesh device implanted, to discuss with their clinician and report to us via the Yellow Card scheme regardless of how long ago the implant was inserted.”