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Neurourol Urodyn. 2003;22(6):582-8.

Transabdominal ultrasound measurement of pelvic floor muscle activity when activated directly or via a transversus abdominis muscle contraction.

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The Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Ullevål Stadion, Oslo, Norway.



The purpose of the present study was to compare the effectiveness of instruction to contract the pelvic floor muscles (PFM), the transversus abdominis (TrA), and the TrA + PFM visualized as displacement of the pelvic floor by ultrasound.


Twenty female physical therapists, mean age 41.1 years (range 26-56) participated in the study. A 3.5 MHz 35 mm curved linear array ultrasound transducer (Dornier Medtech) was placed in the mid-sagittal plane immediately suprapubically, angled at 15-30 degrees from the vertical depending on subcutaneous fat and anatomical variations, to image the pelvic floor. Six trials of three maneuvers in random order were performed: contraction of PFM, TrA, and TrA + PFM.


In spite of correct contractions assessed by palpation and clinical observation, one subject demonstrated a downward movement of the pelvic floor during PFM contraction on ultrasound. Six subjects (30%) showed a downward movement during a TrA- contraction, and two during the combined TrA + PFM contraction. Instruction to contract PFM produced significantly greater mean displacement: 11.2 mm (95% CI 7.2-15.3) than TrA 4.3 mm (95% CI -0.2-8.8), P < 0.01, and combination: 8.5 mm (95% CI 5.2-12), P = 0.04. Hence, instruction of PFM contraction produced a 61.6% greater displacement of the pelvic floor in the correct direction than a TrA contraction.


It is concluded that ultrasound is a more valid method than palpation and clinical observation to assess PFM function, and that instruction to contract the PFM produces a significantly more effective pelvic floor muscle contraction than instruction to perform a TrA contraction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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