Women face a number of unique health needs, many linked to different stages of life. For example, a younger woman may be more concerned with making the right choice for birth control. After childbirth, the same woman may need to address pelvic health such as incontinence or organ prolapse which can occur after delivering a baby. A more mature woman may face the need for surgeries such as hysterectomies or the removal of uncomfortable growths in the uterus called fibroids.
There are a number of products on the market intended to help women address their healthcare needs. Certain options are safer than others, and through no fault of their own some women end up facing serious health issues caused by a drug or device meant to keep them healthy.
Joining us on the show today is urogynecologist Dr. Chris Walker. Walker is a highly trained surgeon who specializes in many aspects of female reproductive and pelvic health. Women come from all over the country and even from outside the United States to seek his expertise. He touches on a controversial surgical device called a power morcellator, problematic transvaginal mesh implants and possible complications of the Mirena IUD.
The words “power morcellator” alone already sound ominous. One woman remarked to me, “It sounds like a power tool.” Well, essentially that is what the device is. It resembles a power drill with blades at the end. Doctors use it in less invasive surgical techniques to remove fibroids or pieces of tissue. Ideally, these techniques allow patients to health more quickly and have less blood loss.
But recently, the FDA warned doctors and patients that there is a 1 in 350 chance that the devices may spread undiagnosed cancerous cells in the uterus and in the abdomen.
Walker explains what these devices are, how they work and the possible risks associated with them.
As a result of age or after childbirth, women can suffer from incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where the pelvic muscles can no longer hold up the organs and they sink into the vagina. Device manufacturers took hernia mesh and marketed it for use in treating these disorders, and it became the “gold standard” of care.
Unfortunately, thousands of women found that the implants ended up causing them hellish pain, nerve damage and the mesh even eroded the walls of the vagina and uterus, damaging other organs.
Walker is probably best known for his work in surgically removing problematic transvaginal mesh implants – a very complicated procedure that encompasses multiple surgeries, including vaginal reconstruction. He treated a number of women for complications from this product and calls it a “horrific plague.” He and his expert team successfully treated a number of women and he offers a message of hope to women “suffering in silence” from these terrible complications.
Bayer markets its Mirena IUD as a convenient, hassle-free method of reversible, hormonal birth control that can last up to 5 years. Doctors implant it into a woman’s uterus and the small piece of T-shaped plastic slowly delivers hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy.
As a laparoscopic surgeon, Walker also had patients referred to him after they used Mirena IUDs and the small, devices ended up migrating in the body. When these devices move in the body, they can damage other organs and require more than one surgery to remove.
Michelle Y. Llamas is a senior content writer and researcher for Drugwatch. She is also the host of the Drugwatch Podcast where she talks to patients, experts and advocates about drugs, medical devices and health. She uses her technical writing experience to provide easy-to-understand information on how drugs and devices work. But she also tells people what happens when products that are supposed to improve their lives can hurt them.
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