Pelvic floor disorders

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Pelvic floor disorders
Other names: Pelvic floor dysfunction
Pelvic Muscles (Female Side) (cropped).png
Location of pelvis muscles in a female
SpecialtyGynecology, urology
SymptomsPelvic pain or pressure, pain during sex, incontinence of urine or stool, constipation, pelvic organ prolapse[1]
Usual onsetOlder age[2]
Risk factorsOverweight, prior hysterectomy, smoking, having children[2]
TreatmentLifestyle changes, medication, medical devices, surgery[2]
FrequencyCommon (25% of women)[2]

Pelvic floor disorders, also known as pelvic floor dysfunction, is group of conditions believed to occur when pelvic floor muscles are not functioning properly.[1][3] Symptoms may include pelvic pain or pressure, pain during sex, incontinence of urine or stool, constipation, or pelvic organ prolapse.[1]

The cause is generally unclear.[1] Potential factors may include injury to the pelvic floor, sexual abuse, poorly learned evacuation techniques, lower back pain, endometriosis, and certain medications such as calcium channel blockers or antihistamines.[1] Risk factors include being overweight, prior hysterectomy, smoking, and having children.[2] The underlying mechanism may involve increase, decreased, or poorly coordinated muscle activity.[1]

Treatment may include lifestyle changes, medication, medical devices, or surgery.[2] Lifestyle changes may include, exercising and a healthy diet.[2] Medical devices may include pessaries.[2] In women, pelvic floor physical therapy, is often useful.[3]

Pelvic floor disorders are common, affected about 25% of women at some point in time.[2] They affects females more often than males.[1][4] The disorders become more common with age.[2] Pelvic organ prolapse occurs in half of women who have given birth.[5][1] Stigmatization occurs in some cultures and therefore women may not seek care.[2] It is thus recommended that direct screening for urinary problems occur yearly.[2]


Pelvic floor dysfunction may include any of a group of clinical conditions that includes urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, sensory and emptying abnormalities of the lower urinary tract, defecatory dysfunction, sexual dysfunction and several chronic pain syndromes, including vulvodynia in women and chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS) in men. The three most common and definable conditions encountered are urinary incontinence, anal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.


Mechanistically, the causes of pelvic floor dysfunction are two-fold: widening of the pelvic floor hiatus and descent of pelvic floor below the pubococcygeal line, with specific organ prolapse graded relative to the hiatus.[6] Associations include obesity, menopause, pregnancy and childbirth.[7] Some women may be more likely to developing pelvic floor dysfunction because of an inherited deficiency in their collagen type. Some women may have congenitally weak connective tissue and fascia and are therefore at risk of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.[8]

By definition, postpartum pelvic floor dysfunction only affects women who have given birth, though pregnancy rather than birth or birth method is thought to be the cause. A study of 184 first-time mothers who delivered by Caesarean section and 100 who delivered vaginally found that there was no significant difference in the prevalence of symptoms 10 months following delivery, suggesting that pregnancy is the cause of incontinence for many women irrespective of their mode of delivery. The study also suggested that the changes which occur to the properties of collagen and other connective tissues during pregnancy may affect pelvic floor function.[9]

Pelvic floor dysfunction can result after pelvic radiation,[10] as well as treatment for gynegological cancers.[11]


Pelvic floor dysfunction can be diagnosed by history and physical exam, though it is more accurately graded by imaging. Historically, fluoroscopy with defecography and cystography were used, though modern imaging allows the usage of MRI to complement and sometimes replace fluoroscopic assessment of the disorder, allowing for less radiation exposure and increased patient comfort, though an enema is required the evening before the procedure. Instead of contrast, ultrasound gel is used during the procedure with MRI. Both methods assess the pelvic floor at rest and maximum strain using coronal and sagittal views. When grading individual organ prolapse, the rectum, bladder and uterus are individually assessed, with prolapse of the rectum referred to as a rectocele, bladder prolapse through the anterior vaginal wall a cystocele, and small bowel an enterocele.[12]

To assess the degree of dysfunction, three measurements must be taken into account. First, an anatomic landmark known as the pubococcygeal line must be determined, which is a straight line connecting the inferior margin of the pubic symphysis at the midline with the junction of the first and second coccygeal elements on a sagittal image. After this, the location of the puborectalis muscle sling is assessed, and a perpendicular line between the pubococcygeal line and muscle sling is drawn. This provides a measurement of pelvic floor descent, with descent greater than 2 cm being considered mild, and 6 cm being considered severe. Lastly, a line from the pubic symphysis to the puborectalis muscle sling is drawn, which is a measurement of the pelvic floor hiatus. Measurements of greater than 6 cm are considered mild, and greater than 10 cm severe. The degree of organ prolapse is assessed relative to the hiatus. The grading of organ prolapse relative to the hiatus is more strict, with any descent being considered abnormal, and greater than 4 cm being considered severe.[6]


There are various procedures used to address prolapse. Cystoceles are treated with a surgical procedure known as a Burch colposuspension, with the goal of suspending the prolapsed urethra so that the urethrovesical junction and proximal urethra are replaced in the pelvic cavity. Uteroceles are treated with hysterectomy and uterosacral suspension. With enteroceles, the prolapsed small bowel is elevated into the pelvis cavity and the rectovaginal fascia is reapproximated. Rectoceles, in which the anterior wall of the rectum protrudes into the posterior wall of the vagina, require posterior colporrhaphy.[8]

Pelvic floor dysfunction is common for many women and includes symptoms that can affect all aspects of everyday life and activities. Pelvic floor muscle (PFM) training is vital for treating different types of pelvic floor dysfunction. Two common problems are uterine prolapse and urinary incontinence both of which stem from muscle weakness. Without the ability to control PFM, pelvic floor training cannot be done successfully. Being able to control PFM is vital for a well functioning pelvic floor. Through vaginal palpation exams and the use of biofeedback the tightening, lifting, and squeezing actions of these muscles can be determined. In addition, abdominal muscle training has been shown to improve pelvic floor muscle function.[13] By increasing abdominal muscle strength and control, a person may have an easier time activating the pelvic floor muscles in sync with the abdominal muscles. Many physiotherapists are specially trained to address the muscles weaknesses associated with pelvic floor dysfunction and through intervention can effectively treat this.[14]

Common physical therapy interventions in male pelvic floor rehabilitation include myofascial trigger point release of both the internal and external pelvic floor and abdominal musculature, therapeutic exercises, biofeedback, and neuromodulation.[15]


The condition is widespread, affecting up to 50 percent of women at some point in their lifetime.[6] About 11 percent of women will undergo surgery for urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse by age 80.[16] 30 percent of those undergoing surgery will have at least two surgeries in trying to correct the problem.[citation needed]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Grimes, WR; Stratton, M (January 2020). "Pelvic Floor Dysfunction". PMID 32644672. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Good, MM; Solomon, ER (September 2019). "Pelvic Floor Disorders". Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America. 46 (3): 527–540. doi:10.1016/j.ogc.2019.04.010. PMID 31378293.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Wallace, SL; Miller, LD; Mishra, K (December 2019). "Pelvic floor physical therapy in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction in women". Current opinion in obstetrics & gynecology. 31 (6): 485–493. doi:10.1097/GCO.0000000000000584. PMID 31609735.
  4. Lakhoo, J; Khatri, G; Elsayed, RF; Chernyak, V; Olpin, J; Steiner, A; Tammisetti, VS; Sundaram, KM; Arora, SS (November 2019). "MRI of the Male Pelvic Floor". Radiographics : a review publication of the Radiological Society of North America, Inc. 39 (7): 2003–2022. doi:10.1148/rg.2019190064. PMID 31697623.
  5. Hagen S, Stark D (2011). "Conservative prevention and management of pelvic organ prolapse in women". Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 12 (12): CD003882. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003882.pub4. PMID 22161382.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Boyadzhyan, L; Raman, S. S.; Raz, S (2008). "Role of static and dynamic MR imaging in surgical pelvic floor dysfunction". RadioGraphics. 28 (4): 949–67. doi:10.1148/rg.284075139. PMID 18635623.
  7. Abbey Hospitals Gynaecology and Vaginal Repair information
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Expanded Version | ASCRS". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  9. Lal, M; h Mann, C; Callender, R; Radley, S (2003). "Does cesarean delivery prevent anal incontinence?". Obstetrics and Gynecology. 101 (2): 305–12. doi:10.1016/s0029-7844(02)02716-3. PMID 12576254. S2CID 25647029.
  10. Bernard, Stéphanie; Ouellet, Marie-Pier; Moffet, Hélène; Roy, Jean-Sébastien; Dumoulin, Chantale (April 2016). "Effects of radiation therapy on the structure and function of the pelvic floor muscles of patients with cancer in the pelvic area: a systematic review". Journal of Cancer Survivorship. 10 (2): 351–362. doi:10.1007/s11764-015-0481-8. hdl:1866/16374. ISSN 1932-2259. PMID 26314412. S2CID 13563337.
  11. Ramaseshan, Aparna S.; Felton, Jessica; Roque, Dana; Rao, Gautam; Shipper, Andrea G.; Sanses, Tatiana V. D. (2017-09-19). "Pelvic floor disorders in women with gynecologic malignancies: a systematic review". International Urogynecology Journal. 29 (4): 459–476. doi:10.1007/s00192-017-3467-4. ISSN 0937-3462. PMC 7329191. PMID 28929201.
  12. El Sayed, R. F.; El Mashed, S; Farag, A; Morsy, M. M.; Abdel Azim, M. S. (2008). "Pelvic floor dysfunction: Assessment with combined analysis of static and dynamic MR imaging findings". Radiology. 248 (2): 518–30. doi:10.1148/radiol.2482070974. PMID 18574134. S2CID 5491294.
  13. Mateus-Vasconcelos, Elaine Cristine Lemes; Ribeiro, Aline Moreira; Antônio, Flávia Ignácio; Brito, Luiz Gustavo de Oliveira; Ferreira, Cristine Homsi Jorge (2018-06-03). "Physiotherapy methods to facilitate pelvic floor muscle contraction: A systematic review". Physiotherapy Theory and Practice. 34 (6): 420–432. doi:10.1080/09593985.2017.1419520. ISSN 0959-3985. PMID 29278967. S2CID 3885851.
  14. Vesentini, Giovana; El Dib, Regina; Righesso, Leonardo Augusto Rachele; Piculo, Fernanda; Marini, Gabriela; Ferraz, Guilherme Augusto Rago; Calderon, Iracema de Mattos Paranhos; Barbosa, Angélica Mércia Pascon; Rudge, Marilza Vieira Cunha (2019). "Pelvic floor and abdominal muscle cocontraction in women with and without pelvic floor dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Clinics. 74: e1319. doi:10.6061/clinics/2019/e1319. ISSN 1807-5932. PMC 6862713. PMID 31778432.
  15. Masterson, Thomas A.; Masterson, John M.; Azzinaro, Jessica; Manderson, Lattoya; Swain, Sanjaya; Ramasamy, Ranjith (October 2017). "Comprehensive pelvic floor physical therapy program for men with idiopathic chronic pelvic pain syndrome: a prospective study". Translational Andrology and Urology. 6 (5): 910–915. doi:10.21037/tau.2017.08.17. PMC 5673826. PMID 29184791.
  16. Fialkow, M. F.; Newton, K. M.; Lentz, G. M.; Weiss, N. S. (2008-03-01). "Lifetime risk of surgical management for pelvic organ prolapse or urinary incontinence". International Urogynecology Journal. 19 (3): 437–440. doi:10.1007/s00192-007-0459-9. ISSN 0937-3462. PMID 17896064. S2CID 10995869.

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