Childbirth, aging and obesity can all weaken muscles and ligaments in a woman's pelvis and cause embarrassing problems. Issues can range from urine loss after coughing or sneezing to the pelvic organs prolapsing, or slipping out of place. Now, new research compares two of the most common surgical options to treat these conditions for the first time.
"This is an extremely common problem that affects lots of women. At any given time about 6% of women will have symptoms from this but women generally don't talk about it," explained Dr. Matthew Barber, a Cleveland Clinic gynecologist who led the study.
Researchers studied 374 women who had surgery for pelvic organ prolapse and followed them for two years. Two of the most widely used procedures are sacrospinous ligament fixation and uterosacral ligament vault suspension.
Both surgeries sew the vagina back into place, just at a slightly different orientation. Results show neither surgery was superior to the other.
"Two of the most common operations for pelvic organ prolapse showed similar results two years after surgery," said Barber.
The team also found that pelvic floor muscle exercises, while effective as a stand-alone treatment for occasional urinary leakage, did not make a difference in surgery success.
Barber hopes his study will help women feel more comfortable talking to their doctor, whether they opt for surgery or not.
"It's an embarrassing condition and we hope that studies like this will raise awareness in the media and patients will feel comfortable going to see their doctor and seeking treatment," explained Barber. "They're not all surgical treatments, there are other treatments as well that we can offer patients with these types of problems."