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J Sex Med. 2018 Mar;15(3):346-360. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.12.017.

Relationships Between 3-Dimensional Transperineal Ultrasound Imaging and Digital Intravaginal Palpation Assessments of the Pelvic Floor Muscles in Women With and Without Provoked Vestibulodynia.

Author information

1
Queen's University, School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Kingston, ON, Canada.
2
Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada.
3
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada.
4
University of Ottawa, School of Rehabilitation Sciences, Ottawa, ON, Canada. Electronic address: lmclea2@uottawa.ca.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Digital intravaginal palpation remains the favored method for clinical assessment of pelvic floor muscle (PFM) function in women; however, there is growing interest in using transperineal ultrasound imaging (TPUSI). TPUSI does not involve vaginal penetration, making it particularly relevant for PFM assessment in women with genito-pelvic pain and penetration disorders.

AIMS:

To study the relations between measures of PFM morphology and function assessed using 3-dimensional (3D) TPUSI and PFM assessment through intravaginal palpation.

METHODS:

77 nulliparous premenopausal women with (n = 38) and without (n = 39) PVD participated. 3D TPUSI was used to measure levator hiatal dimensions at rest, at maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of the PFMs, and at maximal Valsalva maneuver (MVM). Intravaginal palpation was used to assess PFM strength, PFM tone, PFM relaxation after contraction, and vaginal flexibility; each was scored using an ordinal grading scale. Ultrasound and palpation outcomes were compared using Spearman correlation coefficients and Kruskal-Wallis 1-way analyses of variance by rank.

OUTCOMES:

Outcomes included ultrasound measures of the levator hiatal area, anteroposterior diameter, and left-right transverse diameter at rest, at MVC, and at MVM; raw and relative changes in hiatal dimensions between rest and MVC and between rest and MVM; and palpation measures of PFM strength, tone, and relaxation after contraction, and vaginal flexibility.

RESULTS:

Weak to fair correlations were found between ultrasound and palpation measures. A smaller levator hiatus at rest was associated with greater PFM tone, less PFM relaxation, and less vaginal flexibility. Greater levator hiatal constriction and shortening of the hiatal anteroposterior diameter at MVC were associated with greater palpated PFM strength. Greater hiatal distention at MVM was associated with lower PFM tone and greater relaxation.

CLINICAL TRANSLATION:

3D TPUSI and intravaginal palpation provide related but distinct information about PFM function in young women with and without PVD with high functioning PFMs.

STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS:

This was the first study to compare PFM assessment using 3D TPUSI and intravaginal palpation in nulliparous premenopausal women. A main strength of the study was the inclusion of women with PVD and asymptomatic controls, which provided a wide range in outcomes because differences in PFM morphology and function exist between women with and without PVD. The lack of inclusion of older women and women with weaker and/or hypotonic PFMs limits the generalizability of the findings.

CONCLUSION:

Although TPUSI has several advantages, including painless application, it is not recommended as a replacement for digital palpation in the clinical assessment of PFM function. Thibault-Gagnon S, Goldfinger C, Pukall C, et al. Relationships Between 3-Dimensional Transperineal Ultrasound Imaging and Digital Intravaginal Palpation Assessments of the Pelvic Floor Muscles in Women With and Without Provoked Vestibulodynia. J Sex Med 2018;15:346-360.

KEYWORDS:

Assessment; Palpation; Pelvic Floor Muscles; Strength; Tone; Ultrasound imaging

PMID:
29502982
DOI:
10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.12.017

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