Vaginal Prolapse Surgery
Vaginal prolapse is a common condition in women that involves a weakening of the muscles and ligaments that support the vagina. It results in the inability of these structures to keep the vagina in its proper anatomical place so it moves downward from its normal position. A vaginal prolapse typically causes pressure, stretching and pain, and in severe cases, tissue may actually protrude from the vagina.
Symptoms of Vaginal Prolapse
Women with vaginal prolapse may experience the following symptoms:
- Frequent urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Difficulty in thoroughly emptying the bladder or bowels
Causes of Vaginal Prolapse
Vaginal prolapse is most often caused by the strain placed on the pelvic muscles during childbirth, since vaginal deliveries commonly stretch or weaken the pelvic muscles to some extent. Other factors that put pressure on the pelvis and may lead to vaginal prolapse include:
- Chronic cough
- Frequent constipation
- Tumors in the area
Diagnosis of Vaginal Prolapse
A doctor can usually diagnose vaginal prolapse through a physical and pelvic examination, review of symptoms, and pregnancy and medical history. In addition, the following tests may be performed:
Treatment Methods for Vaginal Prolapse
Treatment for vaginal prolapse may vary depending on the symptoms the patient is experiencing and the severity of the displacement. Conservative methods of treatment will usually be recommended initially, but in many cases, surgery does become necessary since that is the only way to achieve a full correction of the prolapse.
Patients with mild symptoms can often treat their condition at home through Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic muscles. In addition, losing weight and cutting back on caffeine can also be used to treat vaginal prolapse.
Cases of vaginal prolapse that do not respond to home treatments may require the insertion of a pessary, a small device inserted into the vagina to relieve pain and pressure and hold the organs in place. More severe cases of vaginal prolapse may benefit from surgery to repair damaged tissue and reposition the vagina in its correct placement.
It is important to treat pelvic prolapse thoroughly in order to reduce the risk of recurrence. If left untreated, vaginal prolapse can get worse over time.
Surgical Repair of Vaginal Prolapse
Surgery to repair vaginal prolapse can be performed with a minimally-invasive laparoscopic procedure through the abdomen. This technique employs several small incisions through which the surgeon can insert a laparoscope with a light and a tiny camera as well as specialized surgical instruments.
After general or regional anesthesia is provided, the surgeon begins the prolapse surgery by repairing defects of the pelvic floor muscles and restoring the anatomical structures involved. The vagina and any other organs that have shifted are repositioned. The vagina is held in place using stitches to attach it to the proximal ligaments or tissues. The vaginal abnormality is then repaired, which may include the use of mesh material or a graft.
Recovery from Vaginal Prolapse Surgery
When the procedure is performed laparoscopically, the required hospital stay after vaginal prolapse surgery is typically just one night. The healing period is typically shorter than with an open surgery as well, with patients experiencing less pain, smaller scars and a lower risk of complications. Patients can return to most normal daily activities in three to four weeks but abstinence from more vigorous activity may be required for two to three months and from sexual intercourse for a three-month period.
Risks of Vaginal Prolapse Surgery
While vaginal prolapse surgery is considered a safe procedure, there are risks inherent to all forms of surgery. The complications that have been associated with this procedure include persistent pain, development of an infection, damage to a pelvic organ or recurrence of previous symptoms.