In women with pelvic pain, is a pudendal nerve block effective, and how does the effectiveness correlate with findings of the history and clinical exam? These were the questions posed by a study published in 2012. Sixty-six patients were given a standardized pudendal nerve block, with Visual Analog Scores (VAS) and presence of numbness recorded prior to and up to 64 hours after the block. Inclusion criteria for the study involved having spontaneous or provoked pain in the distribution of the pudendal nerve, and patients were excluded if significant psychosocial issues, neurogenic or neuromuscular disorders, contraindication to sedation or allergy to utilized medication was present. A detailed history and physical examination was completed.
The pudendal nerve block was administered transvaginally and digitally, under sedation, in a lithotomy position. Following data collection, the researchers found that the presence of a positive Tinel's sign (palpation medial to the ischial spine for assessment of pain reproduction), a prior history of vulvovaginal candidiasis, or symptom worsening in the sitting position was associated with a return of the pain prior to the numbness wearing off. 92.4% of the subjects reported a "positive" response to the block, with varied lengths of time of symptom reduction. Nearly 87% of the subjects reported a reduction in one or more symptoms. This study only studied subjects for 64 hours, therefore it is not possible to discuss from this research the long-term implications of a pudendal nerve block in women with pudendal neuralgia. The authors did find a correlation between prior traumatic events including birth injuries, herniated discs, and fractures of the coccyx, pelvis or sacrum.
What does this research tell us about the role of pudendal blocks in the assessment and treatment of female pelvic pain? As already mentioned, the brevity of the data collection (only up to 64 hours) in addition to application of a non-guided block limit the ability to extrapolate this information to any long-term results. However, the correlations to clinical history and the return to pain prior to numbness ending may provide useful information as further clinical research is completed. The numbness was found to have inconsistent effects on a patient's symptoms such as bladder, bowel, sexual dysfunction, or sitting, and further research could measure the effects of a block on these functions. If you would like to discuss pudendal blocks with experts on pudendal dysfunction, sign up for the remaining spots in our August San Diego course!
Learn more about the Pudendal Neuralgia Assessment and Treatment course that we are holding at Comprehensive Therapy Services later this year.