Dos and don’ts for handling common sling complications



I like the convenience of the Vagifem tablet (Novo Nordisk Inc., Plainsboro, N.J.), and am reassured by data on systemic absorption with the 10-mcg dose, but any vaginal cream or compounded suppository can be used. I usually advise 4-6 weeks of preoperative preparation, with nightly use for 2 weeks followed by 2-3 nights per week thereafter. Smoking is also a likely risk factor. Data are not entirely consistent, but I believe we should provide counseling and encourage smoking cessation before the implant of mesh.

Management is dependent on when the erosion occurs or is recognized. When erosion occurs within 6 weeks post operatively, primary repair is an option. When erosion is detected after the 6-week window and is causing symptoms, a conservative trim of bristles poking through the vaginal mucosa is worth a try. I do not advise more than one such conservative trim, however, as repeated attempts and series of small resections can make the sling exceedingly difficult to remove if more complete resection is ultimately needed. After one unsuccessful trim, I usually remove the whole sling belly, or most of the vaginal part of the sling.

For slings made of type 1 macroporous mesh, resection of the retropubic or transobturator portions of the mesh usually is not required. In the more rare situation where those pelvic areas of the mesh are associated with pain, I favor a laparoscopic approach to the retropubic space to facilitate minimally invasive removal.

Postop pain, sling failure

Groin pain, or thigh pain, sometimes occurs after placement of a transobturator sling. As I discussed in the previous Master Class on midurethral sling technique, I have seen a significant decrease in groin pain in my patients – without any reduction in benefit – with the use of a shorter transobturator sling that does not leave mesh in the adductor compartment of the thigh and groin.

For persistent groin pain, I favor the use of trigger point injection. Sometimes one injection will impact the inflammatory cycle such that the patient derives long-term benefit. At other times, the trigger point injection will serve as a diagnostic; if pain returns after a period of benefit, I am inclined to resect that part of the mesh.

Pain inside the pelvis, especially on the pelvic sidewall (obturator or puborectalis complex) usually is related to mechanical tension. In my experience, this type of discomfort is slightly more likely to occur with the transobturator slings, which penetrate through the muscular pelvic sidewall and lead to more fibrosis and scar tissue formation.

In most cases of pain and discomfort, attempting to reproduce the patient’s symptoms by putting tension on particular parts of the sling during the office exam helps guide management. If I find that palpating or putting the sling on tension recreates her complaints, and conservative injections have provided temporary or inadequate relief, I usually advocate resecting the vaginal portion of the mesh to relieve that tension.

In cases of recurrent stress urinary incontinence (when the sling has failed), a TVT or repeat TVT is often warranted. The TVT sling has been demonstrated to work after nearly every other previous kind of anti-incontinence procedure, even after a previous retropubic sling. There is little data on mesh removal in such cases. I believe that unless a previously placed but failed sling is causing symptoms, there is no need to resect it. Mesh removal is significantly more traumatic than mesh placement, and in most cases it is not necessary.

Dr. Rardin reported that he has no relevant financial disclosures.

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Tackling midurethral sling complications

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