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A Mesh of Continued Controversy

Allison Ariail

This post was written by H&W instructor Lila Abbate PT, DPT, MS, OCS. Lila will be instructing Pelvic Floor Level 3 with Institute founder Holly Herman in San Diego at the end of this month! Sign up for the few remaining seats left in this popular course!

When treating your patient who has undergone a pelvic reconstruction in the not-so-distant past, does the mesh controversy come to your mind?Is the effect of the mesh causing your patient this dysfunction and is she complaining of urinary urgency, urinary frequency, or pelvic pain? Understanding pelvic muscle dysfunction, as pelvic rehabilitation providers do, can put us in a good position to help our patients, as well as to help our physicians with this oftentimes litigious issue.

Urogynecologists, gynecologists, urologists, or any surgeon who deals in the business of female sexual medicine and pelvic reconstruction seems to have been put in a position to defend their stance on the use of mesh when working with patients who present with any degree of pelvic organ prolapse (POP), be it complicated or simple.The decision to utilize mesh is now made with greater emphasis on education for the patient who is undergoing the procedure.

The Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) has released a proposal on April 29, 2014 in order to address the potential reclassification of surgical mesh for transvaginal POP from a class II (moderate risk) to a class III (high risk) device and would “require manufacturers to submit a premarket approval (PMA) application for the agency to evaluate safety and effectiveness.” 1 A similar proposal was put in place with breast implants in 1992 in order to create more awareness of safety concerns with the use of breast implants. 2

While older mesh kits (demonstrated to be more likely to cause complications) have been pulled from the market, any mesh surgery can create complications. As the body heals, scar tissue forms and contracts which is part of the normal healing process, and for some patients, this process can wreak havoc as the tissues and the mesh shrink. Muscles are bypassed, pressed upon, and ligaments are used as supportive measures for the mesh arms, and this can set up the pelvic floor muscles for edema, weakness, or even muscle over-activity. We know that different patients heal in different ways; just as a patient who has had a total hip replacement experiences muscle swelling, soreness, weakness, and scarring, a mesh surgery will necessarily create temporary dysfunction. However, physical therapists are skilled and well-versed in palpating and treating muscle dysfunction, scar tissue and adhesions, and we can educate our patients on the symptoms of mesh complication that may in fact be a muscle problem. Not every patient who has had mesh placement is suffering from mesh erosion, and physical therapists can help patients improve or resolve their symptoms over time through treatment.

Pelvic Floor Level 3 is an advanced course offered by the Institute that covers surgical procedures, pharmacology including hormone replacement, and other medical interventions that address pelvic muscle over-activity, tissue dysfunction, and surgical complications. Lab activities include manual techniques to downtrain (decrease muscle over-activity) such as Strain-Counterstrain of the pelvic floor muscles.

1.http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm395192.htm. Accessed on May 5, 2014.

2. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/BreastImplants/ucm064461.htm. Accessed on May 5, 2014.

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