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NHS records revealed that thousands of women underwent surgeries to remove the implants after experiencing complications.
Hospital trust North Bristol National Health Service (NHS) has informed over 50 recipients of a widely disputed pelvic floor surgery, using artificial mesh implants, that they received the procedure unnecessarily.
Dozens of the unnecessary procedures were performed on women at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, England. The scandal began receiving attention in 2017 when NHS records revealed that thousands of women received additional surgeries to remove the implants.
The form of bowel surgery is often a response to health complications resulting from childbirth. The technique is referred to as laparoscopic ventral mesh rectopexy (LVMR) and was pioneered by surgeon Anthony Dixon, who worked at both Southmead and Spire hospitals.
Dixon was suspended in 2017 after the scandal involving 143 cases came to light.
The doctor has been put under an interim condition of practice while the investigation is carried out, and has been banned by the General Medical Council from performing this type of surgery until November of this year. However, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released a set of guidelines in December advising surgeons to avoid the use of mesh altogether when treating prolapse.
The NHS investigation reviews LVMR patients between 2007-2017.
While 73 of the patients were ideal candidates for the procedure, 57 have been informed that they should have been offered alternative treatment as their primary option; 13 other cases are still undergoing investigation.
The findings have caused great concern among LVMR patients, says solicitor Sallie Booth of the Irwin Mitchell law firm representing 49 Southmead and Spire hospital patients. Booth is calling on the trust to "openly publish its findings to the patients concerned, rather than force them to get the truth only through a stressful litigation process."
Irwin Mitchell and the NHS have already set terms to begin the compensation consideration process. Medical Director of the North Bristol NHS, Dr. Chris Burton, has publicly apologized and stated that the trust is taking the matter "extremely seriously."
“We took immediate action to ensure this couldn’t happen again and have been supporting patients where they need it. We will keep investigating to ensure we have identified those patients affected by these issues, and to find out what happened to learn lessons for future care,” Dr. Burton stated.
The procedure was suspended by the government in 2018 in order to prevent "life-changing and life-threatening injuries."
The effects can be both physical and mental. According to a survey of 653, about 50% of women with mesh implant complications have had thoughts of suicide, 90% have lost trust in the medical profession and 80% struggle with anxiety and depression.
The figures are driven by the severe pain and constant urinary infections suffered by those with mesh implant complications.
Jackie Harvey, a representative for Sling the Mesh, a campaign that raises awareness of the risks of LVMR, stresses that "these results show that mesh implant complications are severe, life-changing and impact women and their families."