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Noncyclic Chronic Pelvic Pain Therapies for Women: Comparative Effectiveness

Comparative Effectiveness Reviews, No. 41

Investigators: , MD, , DO, MSCR, , MD, , DrPH, NP, CNM, , MA, MLIS, and , MLIS, MPH.

Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center
Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); .
Report No.: 11(12)-EHC088-EF

Structured Abstract


The Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center systematically reviewed evidence on therapies for women age 18 and over with noncyclic chronic pelvic pain (CPP). We focused on the prevalence of conditions thought to occur commonly with CPP; changes in pain, functional status, quality of life, and patient satisfaction resulting from surgical and nonsurgical treatment approaches; harms of nonsurgical approaches; evidence for differences in surgical outcomes if an etiology for CPP is identified postsurgery; and evidence for selecting one intervention over another after an approach fails.

Data Sources:

We searched MEDLINE® via PubMed, PsycInfo®, EMBASE Drugs and Pharmacology, and the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) databases as well as the reference lists of included studies.

Review Methods:

We included studies published in English from January 1990 to May 2011. We excluded intervention studies with fewer than 50 adult women with CPP; cross-sectional studies or case series with fewer than 100 women with CPP addressing the prevalence of comorbidities; and studies lacking relevance to CPP treatment.


Of 36 included studies, 18 were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (2 good, 3 fair, and 13 poor quality); 3 were cohort studies (3 poor quality); and 15 were cross-sectional studies addressing the prevalence of comorbidities (quality varied by comorbidity). The most frequently reported comorbidities were dysmenorrhea, dyspareunia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Among studies addressing surgical interventions, there was no evidence that laparoscopic uterosacral nerve ablation (LUNA) is more effective than simple diagnostic laparoscopy and no evidence of benefit of lysis of adhesions. Evidence was insufficient to comment on relief of pain after hysterectomy. Nine studies of nonsurgical approaches assessed hormonal therapies for endometriosis-associated CPP and reported similar effectiveness among active agents. One exception was an RCT comparing raloxifene with placebo, which reported more rapid return of pain in the raloxifene group. Few studies assessed nonhormonal medical or nonpharmacologic management; benefits were reported in single studies of a pelvic physiotherapy approach, botulinum toxin, pelvic ultrasonography, and an integrated management approach. No studies provided evidence relating to a trajectory of care. Reporting of harms data was very limited.


Improved characterization of the targeted condition, intervention, and population in CPP research is necessary to inform treatment choices for this commonly reported entity. A uniform definition of CPP and standardized evaluation of participants are lacking across the literature. Study populations likely vary widely, and studies may be reporting effects from treating symptoms rather than a diagnosed condition. Thus our understanding of potential treatment effects is diluted. Similarly, understanding comorbidity prevalence with CPP is difficult, as conditions may be considered part of the differential diagnosis or a concomitant condition. Among studies addressing treatment effects, little evidence demonstrates the effectiveness of surgical approaches. Studies of nonsurgical approaches typically addressed hormonal management of endometriosis-related CPP and were not placebo controlled, thus limiting our ability to understand whether hormonal therapies would be beneficial for women with CPP without endometriosis and whether pain relief is due simply to the placebo effect. Some studies reported benefits of other nonsurgical approaches, but nonhormonal and nonpharmacologic management remain understudied.


540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850; www​

Prepared for: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1, Contract No. 290-2007-10065-I. Prepared by: Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center, Nashville, Tennessee

Suggested citation:

Andrews J, Yunker A, Reynolds WS, Likis FE, Sathe NA, Jerome RN. Noncyclic Chronic Pelvic Pain Therapies for Women: Comparative Effectiveness. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 41. (Prepared by the Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-10065-I.) AHRQ Publicaton No. 11(12)-EHC088-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. January 2012.

This report is based on research conducted by the Vanderbilt Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) under contract to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Rockville, MD (Contract No. HHSA 290-2007-10065-I). The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors, who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. Therefore, no statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The information in this report is intended to help health care decisionmakers—patients and clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers, among others—make well-informed decisions and thereby improve the quality of health care services. This report is not intended to be a substitute for the application of clinical judgment. Anyone who makes decisions concerning the provision of clinical care should consider this report in the same way as any medical reference and in conjunction with all other pertinent information, i.e., in the context of available resources and circumstances presented by individual patients.

This report may be used, in whole or in part, as the basis for development of clinical practice guidelines and other quality enhancement tools, or as a basis for reimbursement and coverage policies. AHRQ or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorsement of such derivative products may not be stated or implied.

None of the investigators has any affiliations or financial involvement that conflicts with the material presented in this report.


540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850; www​

Bookshelf ID: NBK84586PMID: 22439157
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