Australia investigates implants that left some women with 'rotting pelvises'

Linda Schulz had a pelvic mesh implant when her organs prolapsed but was in pain after the procedure.

Story highlights

  • Australian Senate releases report raising concerns about use of pelvic mesh implants
  • Patients have described implants as being "like a knife" cutting them up from the inside

(CNN)Like more than 100,000 Australian women, Linda Schulz had a pelvic mesh implant to treat complications from childbirth that resulted in her bowel and bladder prolapsing.

The mesh was meant to be a quick fix, but the aftermath was worse.
    Her right leg went numb almost immediately after the procedure, and after a few weeks the mesh was like a knife constantly cutting her up from the inside.
      "The mesh cut through my vagina wall and came through my skin," Schulz said. "Any movement, whether I moved my legs or not, felt like a serrated-edge knife was cutting me."
      In the last year, Schulz, 48, along with hundreds of women experiencing similar complications, petitioned the Australian Senate to investigate their use, hoping for an outright ban and recourse for past procedures.
      After a yearlong inquiry, the Senate released a report Wednesday, recommending that the implant be a "last resort" and raised concern that medical practitioners had not adequately informed their patients and "overused" the procedure "without considering alternative treatment options."
        The report went on to outline vital recommendations for improved treatment guidelines and medical training, prevention of financial inducements for practitioners, a registry of high-risk implantable devices and an audit of past procedures. It also outlined concern that it is not possible to identify accurately the number of women who have received transvaginal mesh implants in the country.
        "Women that have had those implants, who have those outcomes ... have been failed in a monumental way by the system and by certain people in the medical profession who they trusted," said Sen. Rachel Siewert when she introduced the report Wednesday to the Senate. "I hope that we never have to have another inquiry where we see such suffering from the witnesses."
        Senate involvement all started when Sen. Derryn Hinch heard stories such as Schulz's, and was moved to start an inquiry in February 2017.
        "I hope our report convinces them they have been listened to and more importantly they have been believed," Hinch said at the Senate meeting introducing the report.
        Hearings were held across Australia in 2017, interviewing both patients and mesh manufacturers. Hundreds wrote in to the Senate, sharing a range of stories about living with pain after the operation -- from not being able to walk, sit or drive to puncturing their partner during intercourse with a splinter that broke off the implant.
        Schulz said she hopes the report will go past recommendations into action, and she hopes no woman has to go through what she did: "It changes your whole life. You don't feel like a woman anymore. They just take everything in one fell swoop."

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        Clocking in at 20 minutes, the mesh implant is a quick fix aimed at repairing common complications from childbirth and menopause.
        The mesh is implanted to support weakened or damaged tissue to treat poor bladder control and organ prolapse. But the procedure can be risky because of the methods and materials used. According to various studies, complications can include organ perforation, infection, hemorrhage and sexual dysfunction.
        About half of women between 50 and 79 may have prolapse, according to the