Nearly half of patients who had an artificial mesh surgically implanted into their pelvic floor at a Bristol hospital should have been offered an alternative treatment, North Bristol NHS Trust has revealed.
The NHS trust has informed 57 patients who were treated at Bristol’s Southmead Hospital with the controversial surgery for prolapsed bowels that the use of an artificial mesh may have been unnecessary in their cases.
The technique – known as laparoscopic ventral mesh rectopexy – has increasingly been used in recent years for treating prolapsed bowels, often in women experiencing complications from childbirth.
An investigation into the use of the technique was first carried out by North Bristol NHS Trust after the BBC highlighted the cases of several patients who were left in chronic pain following their surgery.
Surgeon Tony Dixon, who carried out the majority of the procedures, was suspended in 2017 after multiple women came forward with their stories. Dixon, who worked as a consultant colorectal surgeon at Southmead Hospital as well as at the private Spire Bristol hospital, was a pioneer of using artificial mesh to treat bowel problems. However, it has been suggested that Dixon was too quick to recommend the invasive surgery in cases where alternative treatment may have been more appropriate.
Complications some of Dixon’s former patients have experienced following laparoscopic ventral mesh rectopexy include:
- Chronic, unmanageable pain
- The need for additional corrective surgery
While the operations began in the early 2000s, North Bristol NHS Trust’s review only looked at cases from 2007 to 2017. The trust review of patients who received the surgery found that in 57 cases patients should have been offered alternative treatments before resorting to surgery, while in 73 cases the surgery had been appropriate. A further 13 cases are still under investigation.
While the majority of the laparoscopic ventral mesh rectopexy procedures at Southmead Hospital were carried out by Mr Dixon, another three surgeons also carried out some of the operations.
North Bristol NHS Trust medical director, Dr Chris Burton, has apologised to patients who received the surgery unnecessarily, saying:
"It is unacceptable and we are taking it extremely seriously.”
Dr Burton also said that the trust has taken immediate action to "ensure it couldn't happen again" and that those patients affected have been supported.
Dr Burton added: "We will keep investigating to ensure we have identified those patients affected by these issues, and to find out what happened to learn lessons for future care."
Dixon said he was "unable to comment on specific allegations... due to patient confidentiality and while relevant investigations are on-going".
Dixon added "There is a need for caution in comparing the use of mesh in different procedures with very different risks and outcomes."
Spire Healthcare, which is responsible for the private Spire Hospital where Dixon also carried out the controversial procedure, has stated that it is carrying out its own review which it hopes will be completed in May.
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