Calls for parliamentary inquiry into use of surgical mesh

Complications arising from the use of surgical mesh are thought to occur in 20 per cent of cases.

Complications arising from the use of surgical mesh are thought to occur in 20 per cent of cases.

Two women suffering the consequences of having surgical mesh implanted in their bodies have pleaded for MPs to hold an inquiry into its use. 

Carmel Berry and Charlotte Korte are both suffering complications caused by the mesh, which is widely used to treat hernias and organ prolapse. 

The pair appeared in front of Parliament's health select committee on Wednesday to present evidence to support their petition for a commission of inquiry. 

Yet-to-be-published research from a Canadian anatomical pathologist suggests there is likely to be a problem with the mesh, because it degrades in the body. 

It is thought to be the first research that shows the mesh changes composition and reacts with the body, which could have implications to the way medicines regulators like Medsafe classify it. 

Among the most common complications caused by the mesh is chronic pain and inflammation. 

Berry has suffered agony since a surgical mesh procedure in 2005 went awry, but there was no way to remove it because it had wrapped itself around her bladder.

In January that a coroner found Geoffrey David Mehrtens, 54, died at Christchurch Hospital after delays in assessing him for surgery, when a mesh graft became infected.

"The thing that concerns us is that the amount of devices that are being supplied to the market is meant to be declining, but the complication rates are still increasing. And you can see that by the latest ACC figures," Korte said.

A Medsafe report in April said only 76 "adverse events" had been recorded since 2005, but an ACC review found 466 treatment claims had been received, relating to the use of surgical mesh between 2005 and 2014.

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The ACC review released in March showed 56,508 mesh devices were sold in New Zealand between January 2005 and October 2014, but it was impossible to know how many had actually been implanted in people. 

A register of its use, similar to records used by DHBs to track heart valves and hip implants, would provide a better picture of the scale of the problem, Berry and Korte told MPs.

Support group Mesh Down Under, founded by Berry, has attracted more than 200 people who are suffering complications from the mesh. 

The issue has gained significant traction overseas, and in the United States more than 100,000 lawsuits over its use are outstanding.

But medicines regulator Medsafe has said the mesh should only be used "in accordance with manufacturers' instructions". 

"Some medical device regulators have raised concerns about such mesh implanted transvaginally to treat certain conditions.

"Medsafe has investigated surgical mesh and concluded that it is safe when used in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions by an appropriately trained surgeon."

Berry said: "The problem is, the instructions say the mesh may need to be removed if complications arise. And that's not always possible."

The mesh could be very difficult to remove as it could become entwined with the body tissue.

The expertise available to perform such removal procedures in New Zealand was limited, and also needed to be part of an inquiry, the pair said.

The committee will consider Berry and Korte's petition over the next few months before making a decision. 

 - Stuff

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