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Pelvic Prolapse

The uterus is held in position by pelvic muscles, ligaments and other tissues. If the uterus drops out of its normal position, this is called prolapse. Prolapse is defined as a body part falling or slipping out of position. Prolapse happens when the pelvic muscles and connective tissues weaken. The uterus can slip to the extent that it drops partially into the vagina and creates a noticeable lump or bulge. This is called incomplete prolapse. Complete prolapse occurs when the uterus slips to such a degree that some uterine tissue is outside the vagina.

Pelvic prolapse is usually accompanied by some degree of vaginal vault prolapse. Vaginal vault prolapse occurs when the upper part of the vagina loses its shape and sags into the vaginal canal or outside the vagina. Pelvic prolapse may also involve sagging or slipping of other pelvic organs, including the bladder, the urethra which is the tube next to the vagina that allows urine to leave your body, and rectum.

Normal Female Anatomy Prolapsed Uterus

Anatomy of the Vagina

The vaginal vault is the "ceiling" or the inner, upper end of the vagina. The vaginal vault has four “compartments”: an anterior compartment, closest to the front of the body; the vaginal wall; a middle compartment consisting of the cervix; and a posterior compartment consisting of the vaginal wall at the back of the body.

Signs & Symptoms1

Women with mild cases of pelvic prolapse may have no noticeable symptoms. However, as the uterus falls further out of position, it can place pressure on other pelvic organs—such as the bladder or bowel - causing a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Sensation of sitting on a small ball
  • Heaviness or pulling in the pelvis
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Protrusion of tissue from the opening of the vagina
  • Repeated bladder infections
  • Vaginal bleeding or an unusual or excessive discharge
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination or an urgent need to empty your bladder

Symptoms may worsen with prolonged standing or walking due to added pressure placed on the pelvic muscles by gravity.

Causes and Risk Factors1

Pelvic prolapse is fairly common and the risk of developing the condition increases with age. It can occur in women who have had one or more vaginal births. Normal aging and lack of estrogen after menopause may also cause pelvic prolapse. Chronic coughing, heavy lifting and obesity increase the pressure on the pelvic floor and may contribute to the condition. Although rare, pelvic prolapse can also be caused by a pelvic tumor. Chronic constipation and the pushing associated with it can worsen pelvic prolapse.

Screening & Diagnosis1

Diagnosing pelvic prolapse requires a pelvic examination usually performed by a gynecologist. The doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a complete pelvic examination to check for signs of pelvic prolapse. You may be examined while lying down and standing. Imaging tests, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be performed to further evaluate the pelvic prolapse.

Treatment1

Treatment is not necessary unless the symptoms are bothersome. Most women seek treatment by the time the uterus drops to the opening of the vagina. Losing weight, stopping smoking and getting proper treatment for contributing medical problems, such as lung disease, may slow the progression of pelvic prolapse.

If you have very mild pelvic prolapse - without any symptoms - or very mild symptoms, treatment is usually unnecessary. However, keep in mind that without treatment, you may continue to lose uterine support, which could cause more severe symptoms.

PN 1002244 Rev B 01/2014
  1. Uterine Prolapse; A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001508.htm

All surgery presents risk, including da Vinci® Surgery and other minimally invasive procedures.  Serious complications may occur in any surgery, up to and including death. Examples of serious or life-threatening complications which may require hospitalization include injury to tissues or organs, bleeding, infection or internal scarring that can cause long-lasting dysfunction or pain. Temporary pain or nerve injury has been linked to the inverted position often used during abdominal and pelvic surgery. Risks of surgery also include potential for equipment failure and human error. Risks specific to minimally invasive surgery may include: A long operation and time under anesthesia, conversion to another technique or the need for additional or larger incisions.  If your surgeon needs to convert the procedure, it could mean a long operative time with additional time under anesthesia and increased complications. Temporary pain or discomfort may result from pneumoperitoneum, the presence of air or gas in the abdominal cavity used by surgeons in minimally invasive surgery. Research suggests that there could be an increased risk of incision-site hernia with single-incision surgery. Results, including cosmetic results, may vary.  Patients who bleed easily, who have abnormal blood clotting, are pregnant or morbidly obese are typically not candidates for minimally invasive surgery, including da Vinci® Surgery. For more complete information on surgical risks, safety, and indications for use, please refer to http://www.davincisurgery.com/safety/. Patients should talk to their doctors about their surgical experience and to decide if da Vinci Surgery is right for them. Other options may be available. Intuitive Surgical reviews clinical literature from the highest level of evidence available to provide benefit and risk information about use of the da Vinci Surgical System in specific representative procedures. We encourage patients and physicians to review all available information on surgical options and treatment in order to make an informed decision. Clinical studies are available through the National Library of Medicine at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed.

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