Women’s Experiences of and Perspectives on Transvaginal Mesh Surgery for Stress Urine Incontinency and Pelvic Organ Prolapse: A Qualitative Systematic Review
Background: Trans Vaginal Mesh (TVM) surgeries have been used to treat stress urine incontinency (SUI) and/or pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Systematic reviews of clinical studies of outcomes suggest that the procedures have benefited a majority of women, while noting that a small minority of women have experienced harms. To provide a more complete picture of outcomes, we conducted a systematic review of the qualitative literature to provide a comprehensive analysis of women’s own accounts of their experience. Method: We conducted a systematic review and thematic synthesis of the evidence from the international qualitative literature on women’s experiences of and perspectives on TVM surgery for SUI and/or POP between 1996 and 2020. We retrieved 6587 papers from PubMed, Cochrane, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Scopus, and Sociological Abstracts. After application of inclusion and exclusion criteria and full-text review of eligible articles, five articles were included in our systematic review. Results: Findings from included articles were organised under three main themes: women’s everyday lives were transformed by TVM surgery; women’s expectations of and approach to their future lives; and women’s critiques of TVM surgery. The transformation of women’s everyday lives included a struggle to obtain recognition and support for their injuries before and after corrective surgery, ongoing limitations on their social, professional and personal lives, and compounding medical and psychological trauma as a result. Women’s approaches to their future lives changed because of this transformation; we identified five main approaches, four were ways of accommodating change, a fifth involved being unable to accommodate life changes. Women’s critiques included that TVM surgeries were overused, consent processes were poor, and surgeons’ definitions of success were deficient. Women expressed concerns about the safety of TVM products and future risks of further complications and discussed multiple system failures in the health care they received. Conclusion: This review suggests that discounting women’s experiences has caused compound trauma and skewed the clinical evidence base; while harms occurred in a minority of women, we suggest they should be recognised as an ethically significant potential outcome. Approaches to TVM injury should attend to historical epistemic injustice and recognise women’s agency.
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National Health and Medical Research Council