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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Apr;188(4):910-5.

Three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging assessment of levator ani morphologic features in different grades of prolapse.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, United Kingdom.



The study was undertaken to identify the morphologic changes in the levator ani in different grades of prolapse by using reconstructed three-dimensional models of magnetic resonance images (MRI) and to subclassify prolapse into different categories on the basis of their levator ani morphologic characteristics.


Sixty-one women were studied, 8 women in stage I, 15 women in stage II, 22 women in stage III, 7 women in stage IV prolapse, and 9 asymptomatic volunteers with stage 0 prolapse. Axial, sagittal, and coronal T2-weighted pelvic magnetic resonance scans were obtained with the patient in the supine position. The three-dimensional models were reconstructed from the source images by using manual segmentation and surface modeling. The morphologic characteristics of the puborectalis were assessed on these reconstructed models by measuring (1). the levator symphysis gap, (2). the width of the levator hiatus, and (3). the length of the levator hiatus. To assess the iliococcygeus, we measured (1). the maximum width of the iliococcygeus, (2). the direction of its fibers that was assessed by measuring the iliococcygeal angle, and (3) the levator plate angle. Nine nulliparous asymptomatic women were studied as controls.


Alterations in levator ani morphologic features are not dependent on the grade of the prolapse, and not all women with pelvic floor prolapse have abnormal morphologic features. In healthy control subjects, the iliococcygeal width measured less than 40 mm and the iliococcygeal angle measured less than 20 degrees. On the basis of the MRI findings, four patterns of changes in the levator ani have been identified. Both the levator symphysis gap and the levator hiatus, which is dependent on the puborectalis function, widen with increasing grade of prolapse.


It is possible to subclassify prolapse on the basis of morphologic changes in the levator ani by using MRI. This may be a very useful predictor as to which patients have recurrent prolapse develop after surgery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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