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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(4):CD000387.

Interventions for treating chronic pelvic pain in women.

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Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Princess Anne Hospital, F Level, Coxford Road, Southampton, UK, SO16 5YA.



Chronic pelvic pain is common in women in the reproductive age group and it causes disability and distress and results in significant costs to health services. The pathogenesis of chronic pelvic pain is poorly understood. Often, investigation by laparoscopy reveals no obvious cause for pain. There are several possible explanations for chronic pelvic pain including undetected irritable bowel syndrome, the vascular hypothesis where pain is thought to arise from dilated pelvic veins in which blood flow is markedly reduced and altered spinal cord and brain processing of stimuli in women with chronic pelvic pain. As the pathophysiology of chronic pelvic pain is not well understood, its treatment is often unsatisfactory and limited to symptom relief. Currently, the main approaches to treatment include counseling or psychotherapy, attempting to provide reassurance using laparoscopy to exclude serious pathology, progestogen therapy such as medroxyprogesterone acetate, and surgery to interrupt nerve pathways.


We aimed to identify and review treatments for chronic pelvic pain in women in the reproductive years. The review included studies of patients with a diagnosis of pelvic congestion syndrome or adhesions but excluded those with pain known to be caused by i) endometriosis, ii) primary dysmenorrhoea (period pain), iii) pain due to active chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, or iv) irritable bowel syndrome.


The search strategy adopted by the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group was used.


Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) with women who had chronic pelvic pain, excluding endometriosis, primary dysmenorrhoea, pain due to chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, or irritable bowel syndrome. The reviewers were prepared to consider studies of any intervention including lifestyle, physical, medical, surgical and psychological treatments. Outcome measures were pain rating scales, quality of life measures, economic analyses and adverse events.


For each included trial, information was collected regarding the method of randomisation, allocation concealment, blinding, whether an intention to treat analysis could possibly be performed and relevant interventions and outcomes (see previous sections). Data were extracted independently by the two reviewers, using forms designed according to the Cochrane guidelines.


Nine studies were identified of which five were of good methodological quality. Two studies were reported in a brief abstract only and were excluded. Progestogen (Medroxyprogesterone acetate) was associated with a reduction of pain during treatment. Counselling supported by ultrasound scanning was associated with reduced pain and improvement in mood. A multidisciplinary approach was beneficial for some outcome measures. Adhesiolysis was not associated with an improved outcome apart from where adhesions were severe. Sertraline was not beneficial.


Further studies to confirm these observations are needed, together with full reporting of those studies which have been undertaken. Given the prevalence and health care costs associated with chronic pelvic pain in women, randomised controlled trials of other medical, surgical and psychological interventions are urgently required.

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