In an article describing vascular dysfunction in women with chronic pelvic pain (CPP), Foong and colleagues describe the common finding of pelvic venous congestion. This study aimed to determine changes in microcirculatory function in women with chronic pelvic pain compared to controls. Eighteen women presenting with chronic pelvic pain of at least 1 year and 13 women without pelvic pain or congestion were evaluated for isovolumetric venous pressure, miscrovascular filtration capacity, and limb blood flow. All women were of reproductive age, menstruating regularly, and measurements were made during the mid follicular and the midluteal stages of the same 28 day cycle. The 18 women with CPP fit previously established criteria for pelvic congestion.
The women in the patient group were re-evaluated at 5-6 months following treatment for pelvic congestion, with treatment including medication-induced suppression of ovarian function for 6 months, and in 4 patients, hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy. All of the patients received daily hormone replacement therapy (Premarin and Provera) "…to minimize the hypo-oestrogenic effects of treatment."
Findings of the research include an elevation in isovolumetric venous pressure, or Pvi in women with CPP compared to controls. Interestingly, there were no changes related to menstrual cycle in measures of microvascular filtration capacity and and limb blood flow. The conclusion of this study is that women with chronic pelvic pain may present with systemic microvascular dysfunction. The noted increase in Pvi "…may be attributable to systemic increases in post capillary resistance secondary to neutrophil activation." Following treatment for pelvic congestion, the value changes in isovolumetric venous pressure were no longer present.
This research highlights the noted changes in microcirculatory function in women with chronic pelvic pain. The obligatory chicken and egg conversation weighs in: does pelvic congestion lead to pelvic pain, or does pelvic pain always precede pelvic congestion? While the answer is probably that either condition can cause and perpetuate the other, as pelvic rehabilitation providers, our first thought might be: what would the research outcomes be if the treatment were not medication-induced ovarian suppression or surgery, but therapy directed to the pelvic pain and congestion? The Institute offered, for the first time last year, a course that allows the therapist to address pelvic pain through treatment of pelvic lymphatic drainage. The Lymphatic Drainage for Pelvic Pain continuing education course is a 2-day class instructed by Debora Hickman, a certified lymphedema therapist. Sign up now to save your seat in October in San Diego, and if you can't make this course, contact us to let us know you are interested in this special topics course, and we will keep you informed of any new course bookings!