In a recent FDA Safety Communication, the Food and Drug Administration updated the public on serious complications associated with transvaginal placement of surgical mesh for pelvic organ prolapse.
The announcement dated July 13, 2011, states, “The FDA is issuing this update to inform you that serious complications associated with surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of POP are not rare. This is a change from what the FDA previously reported on Oct. 20, 2008. Furthermore, it is not clear that transvaginal POP repair with mesh is more effective than traditional non-mesh repair in all patients with POP and it may expose patients to greater risk. This Safety Communication provides updated recommendations for health care providers and patients and updates the FDA’s activities involving surgical mesh for the transvaginal repair of POP.”
Based on an updated analysis of adverse events reported to the FDA and complications described in the scientific literature, the FDA identified surgical mesh for transvaginal repair of POP as an area of continuing serious concern.
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when the tissues that hold the pelvic organs in place become weak or stretched. Thirty to fifty percent of women may experience POP in their lifetime with 2 percent developing symptoms. When POP happens, the organs bulge (prolapse) into the vagina and sometimes prolapse past the vaginal opening. More than one pelvic organ can prolapse at the same time. Organs that can be involved in POP include the bladder, the uterus, the rectum, the top of the vagina (vaginal apex) after a hysterectomy, and the bowel.
Surgical mesh is a medical device that is generally used to repair weakened or damaged tissue. It is made from porous absorbable or non-absorbable synthetic material or absorbable biologic material. In urogynecologic procedures, surgical mesh is permanently implanted to reinforce the weakened vaginal wall to repair pelvic organ prolapse or to support the urethra to treat urinary incontinence.
In the Oct. 20, 2008 FDA Public Health Notification, the number of adverse events reported to the FDA for surgical mesh devices used to repair POP and SUI for the previous 3-year period (2005 – 2007) was “over 1,000.” Since then, from Jan. 01, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2010, the FDA received 2,874 additional reports of complications associated with surgical mesh devices used to repair POP and SUI, with 1,503 reports associated with POP repairs and 1,371 associated with SUI repairs. Although it is common for adverse event reporting to increase following an FDA safety communication, we are concerned that the number of adverse event reports remains high.
From 2008 – 2010, the most frequent complications reported to the FDA for surgical mesh devices for POP repair include mesh erosion through the vagina (also called exposure, extrusion or protrusion), pain, infection, bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), organ perforation, and urinary problems. There were also reports of recurrent prolapse, neuro-muscular problems, vaginal scarring/shrinkage, and emotional problems. Many of these complications require additional intervention, including medical or surgical treatment and hospitalization.
In order to better understand the use of surgical mesh for POP and SUI, the FDA conducted a systematic review of the published scientific literature from 1996 – 2011 to evaluate its safety and effectiveness. The review showed that transvaginal POP repair with mesh does not improve symptomatic results or quality of life over traditional non-mesh repair. The FDA continues to evaluate the literature for SUI surgeries using surgical mesh and will report about that usage at a later date.