Posts Tagged ‘stress incontinence’

60 Minutes Disses Boston Scientific Meshes: WTF?

May 18, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  5/18/2018

60 Minutes Trashes Boston Scientific and Pelvic Meshes

Last Sunday, a piece aired on the CBS weekly 60 Minutes concerning Boston Scientific meshes that are used in the field of female urology. The segment was spun in such a way that many viewers were likely to get the wrong impression about Boston Scientific products that are used for two common pelvic floor issues–stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.  These meshes are composed of polypropylene, a synthetic material that is commonly used inside the human body for many purposes, including  hernia repairs as well as a suture material.   I cannot speak for the provenance of the raw materials used for Boston Scientific meshes, although the issue has apparently been addressed by Boston Scientific as well as the FDA, but I can certainly vouch for the safety and effectiveness of their slings and meshes.  After watching the 60 Minutes piece, one might wrongly conclude that Boston Scientific meshes specifically, and all polypropylene meshes generally, are downright dangerous and should never be used in humans.

Au contraire!  Boston Scientific is a reputable company dedicated to both female and male pelvic health and their mesh products (Obtryx mid-urethral sling for stress urinary incontinence and the Uphold Lite for anterior and apical pelvic organ prolapse) are well-designed and clinically effective. I have implanted these products successfully in hundreds of women with stress incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse over the course of many years and will continue to use them.  Furthermore, I have always found the Boston Scientific “reps” to be knowledgeable, available and helpful and the company always willing to provide ample educational opportunities for physicians.  With respect to meshes used for pelvic reconstructive surgery, polypropylene has been the “gold standard” for many years.  Many clinical publications support the safety and effectiveness of polypropylene pelvic floor meshes and numerous medical societies and regulatory bodies have endorsed the utility of polypropylene pelvic meshes for pelvic floor dysfunction.

Proper Repair of a Dropped Bladder (Cystocele)

Not every cystocele is the same, differing in type, extent, symptoms, and degree of bother. The central type (top image below) is a central weakness of the support tissues of the bladder that can cause a pronounced degree of prolapse. The lateral type (bottom image below) is a detachment of the bladder support from the pelvic sidewalls, usually causing only a modest degree of prolapse. Most women have a combination of these two, a combined central-lateral type.


lat defect


In my opinion, the classic “plication” repair (sewing together of native tissues)— a.k.a. colporrhaphy—is best suited to a central cystocele in which satisfactory native tissues are present.  However, this will not adequately address a lateral defect cystocele or a combined cystocele. Thus, it is important to determine the type of cystocele in terms of repairing it with native tissues. One of the advantages of a mesh repair is that it addresses all three types of cystocele. Additionally, instead of using native tissue that has already failed in terms of providing adequate structural support, mesh repairs use a strong and durable material to provide support.

Factors influencing me to do a mesh repair over a classic colporrhaphy are the following: poor tissues; risk factors for recurrence including chronic constipation, cough, obesity, and occupations that require manual labor; a relatively young patient who will need a durable repair; and those patients who have already failed a native tissue repair.

In the appropriately selected patient operated on with the proper surgical technique, the results of polypropylene mesh repairs have been extraordinarily gratifying. These procedures pass muster and the “MDSW” test—meaning I would readily encourage my mother, daughter, sister or wife to undergo the procedure if needed. When performed by a skilled pelvic surgeon, the likelihood for cure or vast improvement is great and the likelihood for complications is minimal. Meshes are strong, supple and durable and the procedure itself is relatively simple, minimally-invasive and amenable to outpatient surgery. When patients are seen years after a mesh repair, they are usually extremely satisfied and their pelvic exams typically reveal restored anatomy with remarkable preservation of vaginal length, axis, caliber and depth.

Meshes act as a scaffold for tissue in-growth and ultimately should become fully incorporated by the body. I think of a surgical mesh in a similar way to a backyard chain-link fence that has in-growth of ivy. Meshes examined microscopically years after implantation demonstrate a dense growth of blood vessels and collagen in and around the mesh.

As compared to the classic plication, when a mesh is used for bladder repair, there is rarely any need for trimming the vaginal wall, which makes for a more anatomical repair in terms of vaginal preservation. Another advantage of mesh repairs is that if the patient has a mild-moderate degree of uterine prolapse accompanying the cystocele, the base of the mesh can be anchored to the cervix and thus provide support to the uterus as well as the bladder, potentially avoiding a hysterectomy.

In my opinion, the keys to success are the following: estrogen cream preoperatively in the post-menopausal patient; intravenous and topical antibiotics; a small vaginal incision; good surgical exposure; careful technique making sure the mesh is anchored at the appropriate anatomical sites; trimming the mesh to use the least mesh load possible; avoiding mesh folding, redundancy and tension; and vaginal packing and oral antibiotics post-operatively.

The bottom line is that mesh repairs for pelvic organ prolapse have been revolutionary in terms of the quality and longevity of results—a true game changer. They represent a dramatic evolution in the field of female urology and urological gynecology, offering a vast improvement in comparison to the pre-mesh era. That said, they are not without complications, but the complication rates should be reasonably low under the circumstance of proper patient selection, a skilled and experienced surgeon performing the procedure, excellent surgical technique, utilization of the optimal mesh and patient preparation.

Mesh Integration

Three factors are integral to mesh integration, the process by which the mesh incorporates seamlessly into the body: mesh, patient, and surgeon factors. The goal is for the mesh to fully incorporate into the body so that it can serve its role in providing support to the urethra and/or bladder to cure/improve the stress incontinence and/or cystocele, respectively.

The “gold standard” mesh is large-pored, elastic, monofilament polypropylene. This has been the standard for sling surgery for stress urinary incontinence for over 20 years and for pelvic reconstructions for many years as well. This material is also the standard for mesh hernia repairs and also serves as a hardy suture used for closure of the abdominal wall.

Patient considerations are equally vital.  Risk factors for integration problems include: compromised or poor-quality vaginal tissues; radiated tissues; diabetes; patients on steroids; immune-compromised patients; and patients who use tobacco.

Foremost, a well-trained, experienced pelvic surgeon should be the person doing the mesh implantation. The surgeons most skilled and adept fake newsat this type of surgery are those who have undertaken fellowship training in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery after completion of their urology or gynecology training. It is sensible to check if your surgeon is specialized, and if not, at least has significant clinical experience doing mesh implantation procedures. It is particularly important that the surgeon performing the mesh implant is capable of taking care of any complications that may arise.

The “Mesh-up”

Historically, many of the problems that occurred resulting from mesh implantations were not intrinsic to the mesh itself but were potentially avoidable issues that had to do with surgical technique and/or patient selection. Complications with integration such as mesh exposure—a situation where the mesh is “exposed” in the vagina and is not positioned in the correct surgical plane—can and do occur in a small percentage of patients (even when properly selected and when done by a well-trained pelvic surgeon).  When this situation occurs, it is generally quite manageable, although it will often involve revision surgery if it does not respond to conservative measures.

The crux of the “mesh-up” problem was that a few years ago several of the companies that sold mesh products–in an effort to amplify sales and profits–inappropriately and aggressively promoted their products to physicians who were not trained pelvic surgeons.  They offered “weekend training courses” to general gynecologists, many of whom started implanting pelvic meshes into patients after only a brief training period, often with disastrous results, with many patients sustaining incorporation issues.  This ultimately led to lawsuits and litigation and thereafter several of the mesh companies including Johnson and Johnson Gynecare and American Medical Systems pulled their mesh products off the market.  Fortunately for pelvic surgeons and patients alike, Boston Scientific remained in business, and it is their sling and mesh products that I most commonly implant for female pelvic surgical procedures.

This is not to say that there have not been bad mesh products on the market.  Historically, both the Mentor ObTape and the Tyco IVS sling were poorly designed mesh slings that did not have favorable incorporation features, had horrific results and were ultimately withdrawn from the market.

All of the slings and meshes that remain on the market that are used for pelvic floor surgery in the USA—including the Boston Scientific products–have favorable incorporation features and have been time-tested and have demonstrated their utility. Boston Scientific did not deserve a reaming on 60 Minutes, but I suppose it is irresponsible “spin” that makes for a story and commands advertising dollars.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx


10 Myths About Kegel Exercises: What You Need to Know

November 14, 2014

Andrew Siegel, M.D.


shutterstock_orange gu tract closeup




Myth: Kegels are just for the ladies.

Truth: Au contraire…men have essentially the same pelvic floor muscles as do women and can derive similar benefits to sexual, urinary, and bowel health.


Myth: The best way to do Kegels is to stop the flow of urine.

Truth: If you can stop your stream, it is indeed proof that you are contracting the proper set of muscles. However, this is just a means of feedback to reinforce that you are employing the right muscles, but the bathroom should not be your Kegel muscle gymnasium.


Myth: You should do Kegel exercises as often as possible.

Truth: Pelvic floor muscle exercises strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles and like other muscle-strengthening routines, should not be performed every day. Pelvic exercises should be done in accordance with an intelligently designed plan of progressively more difficult and challenging exercises that require rest periods in order for optimal muscle growth and response.


Myth: You can and should do Kegels anywhere (while stopped in your car at a red light, waiting in line at the check out, while watching television, etc.)

Truth: Exercises of the pelvic floor muscles, like any other form of exercise, demand gravitas, focus, and isolation of the muscle group at hand. Until you are able to master the exercise regimen, it is best that the exercises be performed in an appropriate venue, free of distraction, which allows single-minded focus and concentration. This is not to say that once you achieve mastery of the exercises and a fit pelvic floor that you cannot integrate the exercises into the activities of daily living.


Myth: Holding the pelvic floor muscles tight all the time is desirable.

Truth: Not a good idea…the pelvic floor muscles have natural tone to them and when you are not actively engaging and exercising them, they should be left to their own natural state. There exists a condition—tension myalgia of the pelvic floor muscles—in which there is spasticity, tightness and pain due to excessive tension of these muscles. Pelvic floor training in this circumstance must be done with caution in order to avoid aggravating the pain, but maximal muscle contraction can induce maximal muscle relaxation, a meditative state between muscle contractions.


Myth: Focusing on your core is enough to ensure pelvic floor muscle fitness.

Truth: The pelvic floor muscles do form the floor of the “core” group of muscles and get some workout whenever the core muscles are exercised. However, for maximum benefit, specific focus needs to be made on the pelvic floor muscles. In Pilates and yoga, there is an emphasis on the core group of muscles and a collateral benefit to the pelvic floor muscles, but this is not enough to achieve the full potential fitness of a regimen that focuses exclusively on the pelvic muscles.


Myth: Kegel exercises do not help.

Truth: Au contraire…pelvic floor muscles have proven to help a variety of pelvic maladies in each gender. In females, pelvic floor muscle training can help urinary and bowel incontinence, pelvic relaxation, and sexual dysfunction. In males, pelvic floor muscle training can help incontinence (stress incontinence that follows prostate surgery, overactive bladder, and post void dribbling), erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and other forms of ejaculatory dysfunction as well as help bowel incontinence and tension myalgia of the pelvic floor.


Myth: Kegels are only helpful after a problem surfaces.

Truth: No, no, no. As in any exercise regimen, the best option is to be proactive and not reactive in order to maintain muscle mass and strength in order to prevent problems from arising before they have an opportunity to do so. Pelvic floor muscle training done during pregnancy can help prevent pelvic issues from arising in females and pelvic muscle training in males can likewise help prevent the onset of a variety of sexual and urinary maladies. There is no better time than the present to start pelvic exercises to delay or prevent symptoms.


Myth: You can stop doing Kegels once your muscles strengthen.

Truth: No, “use it or lose it” applies here as it does in any muscle-training regimen. Muscles adapt positively to the stresses and resistances placed upon them and so they adapt negatively to a lack of stresses and resistances. “Disuse atrophy” is a possibility with all muscles, including the pelvic floor muscles.


Myth: It is easy to learn how to isolate and exercise the pelvic floor muscles.

Truth: No, not the case at all. Studies have shown that over 70% of women who think they are doing pelvic floor muscle exercises properly are actually contracting other muscles, typically the rectus, the gluteal muscles, and the adductor muscles of the thigh. One of the greatest challenges is that there have been no well-designed, easy-to-follow pelvic muscle training programs…UNTIL NOW! The Private Gym Company was established after recognizing that there was an unmet need for a means by which a pelvic floor muscle-training program could be made accessible and available in the home setting. This comprehensive, interactive, follow-along exercise program is available on DVD…


Myth: Kegels can adversely affect your sex life.

Truth: Absolutely not… In both genders, pelvic floor muscle training has been found to improve sexual function. The pelvic floor muscles play a critical role in both female and male sexuality, supporting clitoral and penile erections as well as ejaculation in males and orgasm in both genders.


Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29


A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health:

Private Gym: – now available on Amazon

30 Interesting Kegel Facts

November 8, 2014

Kegel Facts

Andrew Siegel MD (11/8/14)



  • Arnold Kegel (1894-1981) was a gynecologist who taught at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. He was singularly responsible in the late 1940s for popularizing pelvic floor exercises in women in order to improve their sexual and urinary health, particularly after childbirth. His legacy is the pelvic floor exercises that bear his name, known as “Kegels.”
  • Arnold Kegel invented a resistance device called the perineometer that was placed in the vagina to measure the strength of pelvic floor muscle contractions.
  • Arnold Kegel did not invent pelvic floor exercises, but popularized them in women. Pelvic floor muscle exercises have actually been known for thousands of years, Hippocrates and Galen having described them in ancient Greece and Rome, respectively, where they were performed in the baths and gymnasiums.
  • Kegel exercises are often used in women for stress incontinence (leakage with exercise, sneezing, coughing, etc.) and pelvic relaxation (weakening of the support tissues of the vagina causing dropped bladder, dropped uterus, dropped rectum, etc.).
  • Arnold Kegel wrote four classic articles: The Non-surgical Treatment of Genital Relaxation; Progressive Resistance Exercise in the Functional Restoration of the Perineal Muscles; Sexual Functions of the Pubococcygeus Muscle; The Physiologic Treatment of Poor Tone and Function of the Genital Muscles and of Urinary Stress Incontinence.
  • Kegel wrote: “Muscles that have lost tone, texture and function can be restored to use by active exercise against progressive resistance since muscles increase in strength in direct proportion to the demands placed upon them.”
  • Kegel believed that at least thirty hours of exercise is necessary to obtain maximal development of the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Kegel believed that surgical procedures for female incontinence and pelvic relaxation are facilitated by pre-operative and post-operative pelvic floor muscle exercises.
  • Kegel believed that well-developed pelvic muscles in females are associated with few sexual complaints and that “sexual feeling in the vagina is closely related to muscle tone and can be improved through muscle education and resistive exercise.” Following restoration of pelvic floor muscle function in women with incontinence or pelvic relaxation, he noted many patients with “more sexual feeling.”
  • Kegel believed that impaired function of the genital muscles is rarely observed in tail-wagging animals, suggesting that with constant movement of the tail, the pelvic floor muscles are activated sufficiently to maintain tone or to restore function following injury.
  • The pelvic floor muscles form the floor of the all-important core group of muscles.
  • The pelvic floor muscles are involved in 3 “S” functions: support of the pelvic organs; sphincter control of the bladder and the bowel; and sexual
  • Men have virtually the same pelvic floor muscles as do women with one minor variation: in men the bulbocavernosus muscle is a single muscle vs. in women it has a left and right component as it splits around the vagina.
  • Men can derive similar benefits from Kegel exercises in terms of improving their sexual and urinary health as do women.
  • Kegel exercises can improve urinary control in men, ranging from stress urinary incontinence that follows prostate surgery, to overactive bladder, to post-void dribbling.
  • Kegel exercises can improve sexual function in men, enhancing erections and ejaculation.
  • If the pelvic floor muscles are weak and not contracting properly, incontinence and sexual dysfunction can result. If they are hyper-contractile, spastic and tense, they can cause tension myalgia of the pelvic floor muscles, a.k.a. a “headache in the pelvis,” which often negatively affects sexual, urinary and bowel function.
  • The pelvic floor muscles contract rhythmically at the time of climax in both sexes. These muscles are the motor of ejaculation, responsible for the forcible ejaculation of semen at sexual climax. Kegel exercises can optimize ejaculatory volume, force and intensity.
  • The pelvic floor muscles have an important role during erections, activating and engaging to help maintain penile rigidity and a skyward angling erection. They are responsible for the transformation from a tumescent (softly swollen) penis to a rigid (rock-hard) penis. They exert external pressure on the roots of the penis, elevating blood pressure within the penis so that it is well above systolic blood pressure, creating a “hypertensive” penis and bone-like rigidity.
  • The Kegel muscles are located in the perineum, the area between the vagina and anus in a woman and between the scrotum and anus in a man.
  • The Kegel muscles are not the thigh muscles (adductors), abdominal muscles (rectus), or buttock muscles (gluteals).
  • You know you are doing Kegel exercises properly when you see the base of the penis retract inwards towards the pubic bone and the testicles rise up as you contract your Kegel muscles.
  • You know you are doing Kegel exercises properly when you can make your erect penis lift up as you contract your Kegel muscles.
  • You know you are doing Kegel exercises properly when you can interrupt your urinary stream as you contract your Kegel muscles.
  • The 1909 Gray’s Anatomy referred to one of the male Kegel muscles as the erector penis and another as the ejaculator urine, emphasizing the important role these muscles play in erections, ejaculation, and the ability to push out urine.
  • The pelvic floor muscles are 70% slow-twitch fibers, meaning fatigue-resistant and capable of endurance to maintain constant muscle tone (e.g., sphincter function), and 30% fast-twitch fibers, capable of active contraction (e.g., for ejaculation).
  • Kegel exercises are safe and non-invasive and should be considered a first-line approach for a variety of pelvic issues, as fit muscles are critical to healthy pelvic functioning.
  • The pelvic floor muscles are hidden from view and are a far cry from the external glamour muscles of the body. However, they deserve serious respect because, although not muscles with “mirror appeal,” they are responsible for powerful and beneficial functions, particularly so when intensified by training. Although the PFM are not muscles of glamour, they are our muscles of “amour.”
  • The Kegel muscles—as with other muscles in the body—are subject to the forces of adaptation. Unused as intended, they can suffer from “disuse atrophy.” Used appropriately as designed by nature, they can remain in a healthy structural and functional state. When targeted exercise is applied to them, particularly against the forces of resistance, their structure and function, as that of any other skeletal muscle, can be enhanced. Kegel exercises are an important component of Pilates and yoga.
  • As Kegel popularized pelvic floor muscle exercises in females in the late 1940’s, so Siegel (rhymes with Kegel) popularized pelvic floor muscle exercises in males in 2014, with a review article in the Gold Journal of Urology entitled: Pelvic Floor Muscle Training in Men: Practical Applications, a book entitled: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health, and his work co-creating the Private Gym male pelvic floor exercise DVD and resistance program.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29


A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health:

Private Gym: – now available on Amazon