Aim To review the safety and efficacy of anterior vaginal compartment pelvic organ prolapse surgery. Methods Every 4 years and as part of the Fifth International Collaboration on Incontinence we reviewed the English-language scientific literature after searching PubMed, Medline, Cochrane library and the Cochrane database of systematic reviews, published up to January 2012. Publications were classified as level 1 evidence (randomised controlled trials [RCT] or systematic reviews), level 2 (poor quality RCT, prospective cohort studies), level 3 (case series or retrospective studies) and level 4 case reports. The highest level of evidence was utilised by the committee to make evidence-based recommendations based upon the Oxford grading system. A grade A recommendation usually depends on consistent level 1 evidence. A grade B recommendation usually depends on consistent level 2 and/or 3 studies, or “majority evidence” from RCTs. A grade C recommendation usually depends on level studies or “majority evidence” from level 2/3 studies or Delphi processed expert opinion. A grade D “no recommendation possible” would be used where the evidence is inadequate or conflicting and when expert opinion is delivered without a formal analytical process, such as by Delphi. Results Absorbable mesh augmentation of anterior compartment native tissue repair improves the anatomical outcome compared with native tissue repair alone with no increased complication rate in meta-analysis of 2 RCTS (grade B). Biological grafts in meta-analysis have improved anatomical outcomes with no change in subjective outcomes compared with native tissue repairs (grade B). There is conflicting level 1 evidence to support porcine dermis and a single RCT to support small intestine submucosa as graft agents in anterior compartment prolapse surgery (grade B). Consistent level 1 data support a superior anatomical outcome for polypropylene mesh compared with a biological graft in the anterior compartment. Mesh exposure rate was significantly higher in the polypropylene mesh group (grade A). Consistent level 1 evidence demonstrates superior subjective and objective outcomes following anterior transvaginal polypropylene mesh as compared to anterior colporrhaphy (grade A). These outcomes did not translate into improved functional results using validated questionnaires or a lower reoperation rate for prolapse. The mesh group was also associated with longer operating time, greater blood loss and apical or posterior compartment prolapse as compared with anterior repair. Anterior polypropylene mesh had a mesh extrusion rate of 10.4 % with 6.3 % requiring a surgical correction (grade B). Single level 3 evidence does not support the use of transvaginal polypropylene mesh for recurrent anterior vaginal wall prolapse (grade C). Conclusion Polypropylene anterior compartment mesh offers improved objective and subjective outcomes compared with native tissue repair; however, these benefits must be considered in the context of increased morbidity associated with anterior polypropylene transvaginal mesh.