A bladder sling is a medical device used to treat certain conditions related to the weakening of tissues and muscles around the bladder. This is mostly a concern for women, and typically in women who have given birth. A bladder sling is a piece of surgical mesh, and although it is not much different from other types of surgical mesh, the way in which it is used can lead to serious complications.
Bladder sling side effects have caused some women serious harm, long-lasting damage, multiple surgeries, and months to years of pain and suffering. In some cases it may be the bladder sling itself, which may be defective, or it may be the procedure used to insert the device that causes such severe complications. Either way, the women affected have filed numerous lawsuits over the side effects caused by various bladder slings.
What is a Bladder Sling?
A bladder sling is a device that supports the bladder when the surrounding tissue has become too weak to do so. The sling may be made of a number of different materials, but it is often simply surgical mesh. Surgical mesh is a sheet of fabric that is loosely woven. It is typically made of synthetic materials like polypropylene, but may also be made from animal tissues. Less commonly, a bladder sling is fashioned out of donor tissue from the patient’s own body.
How is it Used?
Bladder slings are used to treat stress urinary incontinence, SUI, in women. Someone with SUI experiences urine leakage due to minor physical stress. This could be a sneeze, running, a cough, laughing, or lifting a heavy object. It doesn’t take much to cause a leakage that is uncontrollable. SUI develops when the tissues or muscles in or around the bladder have weakened and cannot adequately support the bladder or control the flow of urine. SUI can be very embarrassing and can have far-reaching effects like social isolation.
Treating SUI is fairly simple and involves inserting a bladder sling to support the bladder, bladder neck, or urethra. This surgery is usually done after other types of treatments have failed to help a woman control leakages. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two different types of procedures and bladder sling devices to treat SUI surgically.
One of these is called conventional bladder sling surgery. The sling is inserted in place to support the bladder neck and is attached to surrounding tissues with stitches. This type of surgery is more invasive as it requires abdominal incisions and recovery time is longer as compared to the alternative.
The other type of procedure is called tension-free bladder sling surgery. In this procedure the bladder sling is held in place using the patient’s internal tissues. Scar tissue eventually forms and keeps the sling in position indefinitely. This type of procedure is less invasive because the sling is inserted vaginally. It may be, however, that this less-invasive procedure actually leads to more side effects and complications.
Side Effects and Complications
Too many women have experienced devastating and painful side effects from bladder sling procedures. One possible complication is that the material of the sling falls apart over time and the SUI condition returns. This is one of the side effects of least concern. While mesh material is designed to last, if it does not, it can simply be replaced, although surgery may be needed to clear out fragments of old mesh.
Of greater concern are the side effects termed erosion and perforation. Erosion occurs when a sling starts to grow into surrounding tissues. It can actually move out of place and start to move through tissues, organs, and muscles near the bladder. If a sling fragments over time, smaller pieces may do the same. Erosion can be very painful and may lead to serious infections, swelling, and bleeding. Erosion can only be corrected by surgically removing the material from the tissues.
Another terrible complication of bladder sling surgery for some women is called perforation. While erosion can be very painful, sometimes it doesn’t cause any symptoms until a lot of damage has already occurred. When erosion goes undetected, the sling material can move so far through the body that it damages and perforates other organs and tissues. Some women have experienced perforation of the intestines and colon, which leads to even more complications and more surgeries.
Both erosion and perforation are dramatic side effects that can lead to lasting complications. From infections to bleeding to organ damage, the consequences are often painful and require numerous surgeries to correct. Damage to the colon can lead to even more infections, as well as disruptive side effects like the need for a colostomy.
ObTape Bladder Slings Recalled over Side Effects
The side effects caused by one particular type of bladder sling actually led to an FDA recall. ObTape, made by Mentor Corporation was recalled in 2006 after three years on the market. It was recalled because it caused an unusually high number of erosions in women who had had it implanted to treat SUI. Part of the problem was the material from which it was made. The material was ineffective and inappropriate for use as a bladder sling and had already been used in other recalled mesh products. The material was too thick and this led to the surrounding tissues rejecting it, which ultimately led to erosion.
Bladder sling mesh products can be helpful and even life-changing for many women struggling with urinary incontinence. A bladder sling can provide much-needed relief and allow a woman to live her life normally again. On the other hand the bladder sling side effects that are possible are sometimes severe. To experience erosion and perforation is damaging, painful, and disruptive. Women who have suffered because of these complications have had to put their lives on hold and faced medical expenses and lost wages on top of everything else. If you suffered because of a bladder sling you may be able to join the many other women who filed lawsuits against the manufacturers of these devices.