Surgical meshes for pelvic organ prolapse (POP) have had the dubious honour of being one of the more mainstream medical devices lately. As you may know, the safety of these meshes has been a topic of considerable debate in recent years, and questioned publically by physicians, patients, and the FDA. Increasingly, advertisements on TV from personal injury lawyers are reaching women at home and informing them that they can claim money back if they've experienced side effects from the meshes that they've used. This has negatively affected sales of pelvic floor reconstruction meshes since around 2011 when initial warnings about transvaginal meshes were issued.

But this publicity has had a perhaps unexpected side effect on a market that sounds similar, but is fairly different: the vaginal sling market. While these products are also mesh-like, and wind up in more or less the same place, they are designed to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI)a fairly minor problem when you compare it to prolapse, which has been pleasantly labeled by this article as an inside-out vagina. As a result, slings involve a less complex operation and a much smaller piece of material compared to PFR meshes.

Mid-urethral vaginal slings, the standard of care for stress urinary incontinence, are considered safe and effective. While the FDA is looking into some more information on single-incision vaginal slings, a newer type of sling for SUI, these represent only a small subset of the vaginal sling market. Nonetheless, the uproar about PFR meshes has reached women with vaginal slings, and they often reach out to their physicians concerned, unable to distinguish the differences in the mesh used to treat prolapse and the mesh or sling used to treat incontinence.

Bottom line: vaginal slings, despite being widely considered safe and effective by medical professionals, are being dragged into the mess and confusion surrounding using mesh for prolapse, and it's hurting sales of these products.

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