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BBC Woman’s Hour: Stress Urinary Incontinence and Transvaginal Tape (TVT)

In this Woman’s Hour feature broadcast on 19th January 2012, Jenni Murray discusses the operation to implant a transvaginal plastic mesh (or retropubic tape) to treat stress urinary incontinence   This subject was first discussed on Woman’s Hour in late 2011, and the programme acknowledges that there are now a lot of questions about the safety of the device and some people are suggesting that this could be another major implant scandal.  The programme asks ‘how safe are these devices?’.

Jenni talks to Mark Slack, Head of Urogynaecology, Addenbrookes’ Hospital, Cambridge, and Liz Reece who describes the complications she suffered after having a TVT tape fitted.

Liz was in agony when she woke up from the operation and describes a feeling of having ‘barb wire inside’ along with shooting pains which were debilitating.  She explains how many women find it difficult to get a surgeon to listen to their complications and to find a surgeon who is able to treat the problems.  Liz managed to find a urogynaecologist who was able to remove the mesh tape using laparoscopic techniques. She says she was not counselled about the risks or offered conservative or alternative treatments before the TVT surgery.

Mark Slack, who was appointed travelling professor for Ethicon (the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that produces the Gynecare TVT range of products) in 2004, explains how the tape works by providing support to the urethra.  He refers to the NICE guidance which recommends that the patient is properly counselled about the risks and recommends they try conservative treatments first such as pelvic floor exercises by a trained physiotherapist and weight loss if appropriate.  Mark believes the complications are ‘quite low’ but nevertheless concedes that medical devices are not adequately regulated.

Liz hopes that women listening to the programme will check out complications and reminds listeners that the product can shrink and degrade within the body which can cause problems plus the method of insertion via the vagina, a bacteria-laden area, is also problematic.

Click on the following link to hear the discussion on TVT which was aired on the Radio 4 programme in January 2012.

BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Discussion: Urinary Incontinence and Transvaginal Tape

Scroll down the page then click on “Chapter 1” to listen to the discussion.

Read more about Liz’s story on another website – Mesh Medical Device Newsdesk:

If you would like to contact Liz, please email:



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