Is Vaginal Mesh Safe?

Ask the Experts: Is Vaginal Mesh Safe?

Vaginal mesh is a net-like medical product used to treat two health conditions in women: pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and stress urinary incontinence (SUI). POP is when the muscles and ligaments supporting a woman's pelvic organs become weak. As a result, they can fall out of place and bulge down in the vagina. Vaginal mesh can be implanted to reinforce the weakened vaginal wall. Surgery can be done through the patient's belly using mesh or through the vagina without the use of mesh.

Mesh is also used to treat SUI. People with SUI tend to leak urine when they cough, sneeze, laugh or do other physical actions. A treatment option for SUI is called "sling" surgery. This is when a surgical mesh urethral sling is placed through the vagina to support the bladder neck or the urethra (tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body). The sling provides support, takes pressure off the bladder and helps stop urine from leaking.

In 2019, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for manufacturers to stop selling vaginally implanted mesh products for the treatment of POP because of a concern about side effects. The FDA mandate applies only to mesh for POP repair implanted through the vagina-not through the patient's belly.

The FDA's ruling does not apply to mesh used to treat SUI.

If you have had any procedures with vaginal mesh and have not had any problems, you should continue with your normal medical checkups; you do not need to have the mesh taken out. Talk to your doctor if you are having problems related to the mesh-- such as lasting vaginal bleeding or discharge, pelvic or groin pain, pain with sex (you or your partner), recurrent urinary tract infections or pain with urinating.

Victor Nitti, MD, is Professor of Urology and Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chief of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS) at UCLA Health in Los Angeles.