For confidentiality reasons, the victim in question will be referred to as Michele.
After bringing a claim for clinical negligence relating to vaginal mesh surgery, a lady named Michele has secured a substantial damages award in an out of court settlement.
Michele instructed Lime Solicitors to investigate whether she had been appropriately consented by her consultant gynaecologist to receive a vaginal mesh implant. After receiving the implant, Michele developed symptoms of severe vaginal and pelvic pain.
Despite having the mesh removed 18 months later, she still continues to suffer.
Timeline of events
Michele attends a gynaecologist appointment and complains that she has symptoms of urinary urgency, frequency and nocturia. Prior to this appointment she was prescribed medication, but this were ineffective.
Michele undergoes a number of urodynamic studies which reveal that she has urodynamic stress incontinence.
Michele sees the same gynaecologist, who advises her that the urodynamic tests revealed stress incontinence, and it was recommended that she should have a sub-urethral tape inserted.
Michele said; “at this consultation, the sub-urethral tape was the only option offered to me and that, if I chose not to have the procedure, I’d end up needing a continence bag. It was a no brainer, I felt I had to have it.”
Michele is then told informed that the surgery is straightforward and that pins would be inserted into both sides of her abdomen, and the sub-urethral tape would be passed through and secured, to support her bladder and urethra.
At the time of the surgery, Michele was not told that the mesh product she was receiving was the ‘BARD Adjus’ which is a permanent mesh device which is almost impossible to remove.
Michele has the mesh inserted on 14th April 2015. Two days after her surgery, she sees her GP with concerns about an infection. Her wound is red and swollen, and there are areas of pus.
She is then prescribed antibiotics.
Michele is seen again by the gynaecologist on 30th April 2015. She complains of persisting overactive bladder symptoms, and when examined, is found to be suffering from vaginal discomfort and tenderness around where the sub-urethral tape was inserted earlier that month.
Next 6 months
Michele’s discomfort worsens. She develops pain which prevents her from being intimate, she experiences blood in her urine and has repeat urinary tract infections.
Michele is given a steroid injection, but this fails to alleviate her symptoms.
Michele said; “I think by this time I was becoming more frustrated with my symptoms of pain and discomfort. I was still having the urinary symptoms but I recall that they had improved slightly, although, this is possibly because I felt that had been overtaken by the problems with vaginal pain.”
Michele returns to her gynaecologist. She is told that her problems are being caused by the sub-urethral tape and that it should be removed.
This procedure doesn’t take place for another nine months.
Michele undergoes further surgery to have the mesh removed.
Following her surgery, her symptoms of urinary incontinence return.
Michele has colposuspension surgery, where a stitch is inserted to lift the bladder. This procedure resolves Michele’s urinary symptoms, however, she continues to experience lower abdominal pain and extreme vaginal tenderness, which she believed to be due to the sub-urethral mesh.
Bringing a vaginal mesh claim
Michele instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers, Lime Solicitors, to help get some answers.
She said “I wanted to know if I was an appropriate candidate to receive the mesh surgery and whether I was properly consented for the surgery. I also wanted to know why I was not offered colposuspension surgery as an alternative to the tape, and why I was offered the mesh when my gynaecologist must have known of the problems associated with it.”
How Lime Solicitors helped Michele’s case:
Adam Wright, Associate Solicitor at Lime Solicitors represented Michele. He said:
We took time to speak to Michele to hear and understand her concerns. We obtained her medical records and instructed an independent medical expert to examine her records and to provide an opinion as to whether Michele had been appropriately consented to her surgery, and whether she should have been offered conservative treatment methods or an alternative procedure, before considering the sub-urethral tape.
Adam and the team at Lime identified a Uro-Gynaecology expert who was highly experienced with sub-urethral tapes. In his report, he identified several failures in Michele’s care:
- Failure to properly consent Michele to the surgery because not all treatment options had been discussed
- Failure to comply with NICE clinical guidance which offered recommendations for the treatment of overactive bladder symptoms before proceeding to surgery
- Failure to refer Michele to a specialist continence nurse to discuss her non-surgical options
He concluded that there was a negligent failure to have advised Michele that she was an appropriate candidate for sub-urethral tape insertion, when she was not.
Our expert also identified that the type of mesh which Michele had received, had been withdrawn from use by the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) in America in 2014 because the poloypropylene material used in the product had been found unfit for use in humans.
There were also concerns for mesh erosion putting patients at risk of developing chronic pain and/or fistula formation. Michele was extremely concerned to learn of this and was upset that she hadn’t been given this information before agreeing to the surgery.
Understanding the long-term effects
We instructed our expert to examine Michele, so that we could understand the long-term consequences of the mesh.
Worryingly, he reported that the type of mesh Michele received, which has plastic anchors at each end designed to bed deep into the muscle tissues, make the product almost impossible to remove. He believed therefore that, whilst the mesh had been removed, the plastic anchors remained, which were likely causing her ongoing symptoms and put her at a future risk of developing unprovoked chronic vaginal and pelvic pain.
Court proceedings commenced, and we put these allegations to the hospital’s lawyers. Liability was denied. It was argued that Michele was thoroughly consented to the sub-urethral mesh surgery. It was also denied that she should have been offered colposuspenison surgery as a first line surgical option as the risks were allegedly greater than with sub-urethral mesh surgery, and it was reasonable therefore to offer mesh surgery. It was argued that the majority of Gynaecological-Urology Surgeons would have offered sub-urethral mesh surgery and that Michele was an appropriate candidate for it.
Whilst liability was never conceded, we were able to secure a substantial damages award for Michele in an out-of-court settlement.
A note from Adam Wright:
In securing damages for Michele, Adam said: “I’m really happy that we have managed to successfully resolve Michele’s claim. For her, bringing a claim wasn’t driven by her need to secure damages, but the need to get answers. The mesh had a profound and debilitating impact on her life, physically and emotionally. I am so concerned that, like Michele, there are so many women out there who have been affected by having a vaginal mesh procedure, and I do wonder whether they have been properly advised on all the risks of such surgery.”
Michele commented: “I instructed Lime Solicitors to get answers to questions which I was unable to get answers to. Had I have been told of all the risks associated with the mesh, I would never have agreed to the surgery in the first place. I was both shocked and distraught to read the expert’s report. I learned things about the mesh which my Gynaecologist never mentioned to me. I am angry that he chose to use this product on me. I feel like I was his guinea pig. I really hope that he has learned lessons from my case, and that now he will discuss treatment options much more thoroughly with his patients. By telling my story, I am also hopeful that the many women out there affected by mesh feel reassured, that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and to keep fighting for justice.”
Contact our surgical mesh solicitors
If you are concerned about a mesh procedure that either you or a loved one has undergone, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our experts have experience in handling medical negligence cases regarding surgical mesh and understand the impacts this can have on individuals and families.