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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 December 2005, 00:42 GMT
Simple mesh gives Iraq woman hope
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

The operation being carried out
The op was a first in Southern Iraq
A simple piece of mesh, costing just 65 in the UK, was able to save an young Iraqi woman from a life of misery and rejection.

The woman had suffered a severe prolapsed uterus and doctors in Iraq feared they might have to give her radical surgery or even a hysterectomy.

This would have meant that the 23-year-old would probably have been left sterile and might never marry.

UK experts say that because of the value placed in Iraq on marriage and the ability to have children, that this woman would probably have been ostracised, been a financial burden on her family and might even have taken her own life to escape what she saw as her increasing shame.


Dr Ali Hassan*, an experienced gynaecologist and obstetrician in Southern Iraq, said he had been very keen to prevent the girl becoming sterile and emailed colleagues through a UK charity for help.

"The girl was a farmer doing heavy jobs with lifting. She was a virgin and apart from the problem with her prolapsed uterus she was in good health.

"Because she was so young I was reluctant to do the usual surgery in our country to treat such a case because both the procedures carry a major risk for future fertility."

He placed a request for advice with the UK based Swinfen Charitable Trust (SCT).

Set up by Lord and Lady Swinfen, the SCT uses telemedicine to put doctors in developing countries in touch with experts world-wide.

Using the free service, Dr Hassan learnt of a new operation, called a sacrohysteropexy, which uses a special mesh to help support the uterus.

The mesh, which lasts a lifetime keeps the uterus in place and does not interfere with the patient's chances of having children.

But not only had Dr Hassan never carried out the operation before, Iraq had no supplies of the special mesh vital for the operation.

So UK doctor Mr Charles Cox, obstetrician and gynaecologist at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, and consultant to the SCT, who was travelling to Iraq to conduct a training course took supplies of the mesh and talked Dr Hassan through the new procedure.

"Mr Charles Cox discussed the procedure with me and gave me a CD about it. He also gave me the mesh, which is used in the operation.

"After that I had a clear idea about how to do the operation and the next week a colleague and I carried it out."


Dr Hassan said the operation had been a great success and that the patient was now recovering well.

"It was very successful.

"The patient had a smooth post-operative period and now after two months she is well and the prolapsed uterus has cured completely."

Andrew Mathieson, a senior lecturer from the University of the West of England, who organised the Iraq trip in June, said that without the surgery the girl's life would have been very difficult.

It was the first time this operation had been carried out in Southern Iraq and it worked like a dream
Lady Swinfen

Dr Kim Hinshaw, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Sunderland Royal Hospital, who was initially contacted via SCT, said he had been shocked by the severity of the woman's condition.

"She had no children, but had a huge prolapse out of the womb. It was literally down to her knees."

He said he knew his colleague, Mr Cox, was going to Iraq and asked him to advise on the case and ultimately deliver the vital mesh.

Lady Pat Swinfen said she was delighted that her Trust, had been able to help.

"When you get an opportunity like this you seize it. It was the first time this operation had been carried out in Southern Iraq and everything worked like a dream thanks to Charles Cox Kim Hinshaw and Andrew Mathieson."

* The doctor's name has been changed to protect him

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