Johnson & Johnson just announced it would no longer sell surgical mesh products beginning this fall. The products help treat intense pelvic pain in thousands of women annually, but the mesh has also met criticism after reports of surgical complications and injury.

So what do consumers need to know?

According to University of Minnesota experts, surgical mesh can still benefit women when procedures are done correctly and the product used appropriately.

“It’s important we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water with these types of products,” said University of Minnesota Physician urologist Nissrine Nakib, M.D., a specialist in female urology and pelvic surgery. “There are definite benefits to surgical mesh, and the most important thing a patient can do is to know their options and be educated about any treatment approach.”

According to Nakib, surgical mesh can offer lower recurrence rates than many other available treatment options. The products support internal organs and strengthen tissue and can be beneficial for treating pelvic organ prolapse.

But there can be risks involved in the use of surgical mesh. Complications can include the mesh becoming exposed to the outside, pain, and more rarely, perforation of an organ. The FDA has even issued a health warning about surgical mesh being inserted vaginally.

“When performed vaginally, mesh is used in an area of the body that is largely unseen. Doctors performing this procedure need to be intimately familiar with the female anatomy and proceed carefully,” said Nakib.

To avoid problems, Nakib advises to women find a physician experienced with surgical mesh and to ask a lot of questions about the risks and benefits of any given procedure, as well as about other options available.

“It’s important for patients to be involved in their own treatment,” she said.

Learn more about urology options available at the U of M.

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