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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2001 Dec;185(6):1332-7; discussion 1337-8.

Correlation of symptoms with location and severity of pelvic organ prolapse.

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Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.



The purpose of this study was to compare the symptoms that are related to pelvic floor dysfunction with the location and severity of the coexisting prolapse.


Two hundred thirty-seven consecutive patients with symptomatic pelvic organ prolapse came to Johns Hopkins Medicine during a 24-month period beginning in July 1998 and completed a symptom-specific Likert scale questionnaire that included standardized questions that were compiled from commonly used validated instruments. All questionnaires were completed by the patients before they were seen by a physician. Further evaluation included a standardized physical examination that included the International Continence Society's system for grading uterovaginal prolapse. Symptoms were categorized according to both severity and associated anatomic compartment. Symptoms that were related to urinary and anal incontinence and voiding, defecatory, sexual, and pelvic floor dysfunction were analyzed with respect to location and severity of pelvic organ prolapse with the use of the nonparametric correlation coefficient, Kendall's tau-b.


The mean age of the women was 57.2 years (range, 23-93 years); 109 of the women (46%) had undergone hysterectomy. Overall, stage II was the most common pelvic organ prolapse (51%) that was encountered. In 77 patients (33%), anterior compartment pelvic organ prolapse predominated; 46 patients (19%) demonstrated posterior compartment prolapse, whereas 26 patients (11%) had apical prolapse. In 88 patients (37%), no single location was more severe than another. Voiding dysfunction that was characterized by urinary hesitancy, prolonged or intermittent flow, and a need to change position was associated with the increasing severity of anterior and apical pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic pressure and discomfort along with visualization of prolapse were strongly associated with worsening stages of pelvic organ prolapse in all compartments. Defecatory dysfunction characterized by incomplete evacuation and digital manipulation was associated with worsening posterior compartment pelvic organ prolapse. Impairment of sexual relations and duration of abstinence were strongly associated with worsening pelvic organ prolapse. An inverse correlation was observed between increasing severity of pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence and enuresis.


Women with pelvic organ prolapse experience symptoms that do not necessarily correlate with compartment-specific defects. Increasing severity of pelvic organ prolapse is weakly to moderately associated with several specific symptoms that are related to urinary incontinence and voiding, defecatory, and sexual dysfunction.

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