Vaginal mesh refers to a semi-permeable barrier implanted by a physician into a woman as a reinforcement structure to keep her internal organs in place. The device is known as vaginal mesh because it is now typically inserted (or “placed”) through the vagina, whereas these meshes used to be surgically placed via an incision in the patient’s abdomen.
History of Vaginal Mesh
Physicians first started using what is now referred to as vaginal mesh in the 1950s to treat abdominal hernias. In the 1970s, by cutting that same type of mesh into a different shape, doctors began using it to treat female Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) and Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP). As the use of mesh in SUI and POP surgeries increased in popularity in the late 1990s, medical device companies began to develop and market mesh products in configurations designed specifically to treat those two conditions.
Vaginal Mesh Surgery Uses
The term “vaginal mesh” refers to the surgical mesh and mesh products that are implanted in POP and SUI operations, whether surgeons are using generic mesh that they have cut to become suitable for SUI and POP repair, or mesh that comes pre-cut to match the anatomical defects that POP and SUI operations are intended to correct.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Doctors often use “vaginal sling” or “bladder sling” procedures to treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse—a condition in which a woman’s reproductive or pelvic organs fall into or through her vaginal opening. These operations are called “sling procedures” because the doctors performing them use surgical mesh to create a sling-like structure of support for a patient’s urethra, bladder, or some other organ. How dangerous is POP?
In women, the front wall of the vagina supports the bladder. This wall can weaken or loosen with age. Significant bodily stress such as childbirth can also damage this part of the vaginal wall. If it deteriorates enough, a woman can suffer bladder prolapse, meaning the bladder is no longer supported and descends into the vagina. This may trigger problems such as urinary difficulties, discomfort, and stress incontinence (urine leakage caused by sneezing, coughing, exertion, etc.). Are you at risk for bladder prolapse?
Vaginal Mesh Implants
The materials used in transvaginal mesh products on the market fall into the following four categories:
- non-absorbable synthetic (e.g., polypropylene or polyester);
- absorbable synthetic (e.g., poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) or poly(caprolactone));
- biologic (e.g., acellular collagen derived from bovine or porcine sources); and
- composite (i.e., a combination of any of the previous three categories).