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Fistulas - What do therapists need to know?

KathyGolic

This post is a follow-up to the February 20th post written by Nancy Cullinane, "Pelvic Floor One is Heading to Kenya

By the time folks are reading this, Nancy Cullinane, PT, MHS, WCS, Terri Lannigan, PT, DPT, OCS, and I will likely be in a warm, crowded classroom in Nairobi, Kenya helping 30+ “physios” navigate the world of misbehaving bladders, detailed anatomy description, and their first internal lab experiences. No doubt it will be both challenging and extremely rewarding. We are so grateful to the Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute for sharing their curriculum in partnership with the Jackson Clinics Foundation to allow us to offer their valuable curriculum in order to affect positive health care changes.

I personally am humbled and honored to get to play a small but key role in the development of foundational knowledge and skills for these women PT’s who will no doubt change the lives of countless Kenyan women, and, consequently, their families.

My adventure truly began when I offered to write lectures on the topics of Fistula and FGM/C (female genital mutilation/cutting) and I began the process of crash course learning about these topics. The quest has taken me on a deep dive into professional journals, NGO websites, surgical procedure videos and insightful interviews with some of the pioneers working for years including “in the field” to help women in Africa and in countries where these issues are prevalent.

Before I began my research on the topic of fistula, I pretty much thought of a fistula as a hole between two structures in the body where it doesn’t belong, and narrowly thought of in terms of anal fistulas, acknowledging how lucky we are that there are skilled colorectal surgeons who can fix them. But after more research, my world view changed. (Operative word here being “world”).

A fistula is an abnormal or surgically made passage between a hollow or tubular organ and the body surface, or between two hollow or tubular organs. For our purposes here today, I am referring to an abnormal hole or passage between the vagina and the bladder, or rectum, or both. When the fistula forms, urine and/or stool passes through the vagina. The results are that the woman becomes incontinent and cannot control the leakage because the vagina is not designed to control these types of body fluids.

According to the Worldwide Fistula Fund, there are ~ 2 million women and girls suffering from fistulas. Estimates range from 30 to 100 thousand new cases developing each year; 3-5 cases/1000 pregnancies in low-income countries. A woman may suffer for 1-9 years before seeking treatment. For women who develop fistula in their first pregnancy, 70% end up with no living children. 

Vesicovaginal fistulas (VVF) can involve the bladder, ureters, urethra, and a small or large portion of the vaginal wall. Women with VVF will complain of constant urine leakage throughout the day and night, and because the bladder never fills enough to trigger the urge to void, they may stop using the toilet altogether. During the exam there may be pooling of urine in the vagina.

Rectovaginal Fistula is less common, and accounts for ~ 10% of the cases. Women with RVF complain of fecal incontinence and may report presence of stool in the vagina. These women often will also have VVF.

In Kenya, most fistulas are obstetric fistulas, which occur as a result of prolonged obstetric labor (POL). These are also called gynecologic, genital, or pelvic fistulas. Traumatic fistulas account for 17-24 % of the cases and are caused by rape, sexual or other trauma, and sometimes even from FGM/C. The other type of fistula by cause is iatrogenic, meaning unintentionally caused by a health care provider during procedures such as during a C-section, hysterectomy, or other pelvic surgery. Most fistulas seen in the US are of this type.

Prolonged Obstructed Labor most often occurs when the infant’s head descends into the pelvis, but cannot pass though because of cephalo-pelvic disproportion (mismatch between fetus head and mother’s pelvis) thus creating sustained pressure on the tissues separating the tissues of the vagina and bladder or rectum, (or both) leading to a lack of blood flow and ultimately to necrosis of the tissue, and the development of the fistula. Those who develop this type of fistula spend an average of 3.8 days in labor (start of uterine contractions), some up to a week. In these cases, family members or traditional birth attendants may not recognize this is occurring, and even if they do, they may not have the instrumentation, the facilities or the skills necessary to handle the situation with an instrumental delivery or a C-section. And many of these women are in remote locations without transportation to appropriate facilities or lack the money to pay for procedures.

There are many adverse events and medical consequences that can result as a result of untreated obstetrical fistulas including the death of the baby in 90% of the cases. Physical effects besides the incontinence previously mentioned can include lower extremity nerve damage, which can be disabling for these women, along with a host of other physical and systemic health issues. The social isolation, ostracization by community, divorce, and loss of employment can lead to depression, premature lifespan, and sometimes suicide.

The good news is there are several great organizations making a difference.

In most cases, surgery is needed to repair the fistula. Sometimes, however, if the fistula is identified very early, it may be treated by placing a catheter into the bladder and allowing the tissues to heal and close on their own, and this is more viable in high-income countries after iatrogenic fistulas, but unfortunately, most women in the low-income countries have to wait for months or years before they receive any medical care.

There is an 80-90% cure rate depending on the severity, but according to the Worldwide Fistula Fund, 90% are left untreated, as the treatment capacity is only around 15,000 per year for the 100,00 new patients requiring it. Prevention is vital.

Despite successful repair of vesicovaginal fistulas, research shows that 15-35% of women report post-op incontinence at the time of discharge from the hospital, and that 45-100% of women may become incontinent in the years following their repair. Studies suggest that scar tissue-fibrosis of the abdominal wall and pelvis, and vaginal stenosis are strongly associated with post-operative incontinence.

According to research by Castille, Y-J et al in Int. J Gynecology Obstet 2014, there can be improved outcome of surgery both in terms of successful closure of vesicovaginal fistula and reduced risk of persistent urinary incontinence if women are taught a correct pelvic floor muscle contraction and advised to practice PFM exercise. Other studies have shown a positive effect from pre and post op PT in both post op urinary incontinence and PFM strength and endurance with a reduction of incontinence in more than 70% of treated patients, with improvements maintained at the 1year follow up. SO, THIS IS ONE REASON WE ARE SO EXCITED TO BE GOING TO KENYA!

I inquired about the use of dilators via email communication with surgeon Rachel Pope , MD MPH who has done extensive work in Malawi with women who have suffered from fistula, including the use of dilators, and her response was: “in women who have had obstetric fistula the dilators seem only marginally helpful after standard fistula repairs. The key is to have a good vaginal reconstructive surgery where skin flaps that still maintain their blood supply replace the area in the vagina previously covered by scar tissue. The dilators work exceedingly well when there is healthy tissue in place, and I think the overall outcomes are better for women in those scenarios compared to the cement-like scar we often see in women with fistulas.”

In the US, there are specialist surgeons who provide surgical repairs. While genitourinary fistulas can occur because of obstructed labor and operative deliveries in high income countries, they can also occur in a variety of pelvic surgeries, post pelvic radiation, as well as in cases of cancer, infections, with stones, and as well etiology includes instrumentations such as D&Cs, catheters, endoscopic trauma, and pessaries, and as well in cases of foreign bodies, accidental trauma, and for congenital reasons. As pelvic therapists it is important to know your patients’ surgical and medical history and to pay special attention to the patient’s history regarding their incontinence description and onset and be mindful during exam to notice possible pooling of urine in the vagina. Though rare in terms of occurrence, we should be aware of the possibility and may play a role in referring the patient to a physician who can do further diagnostic testing

In conclusion, I want to thank UK physiotherapist Gill Brook MCSP (DSA) CSP MSC, president of the IOPTWH who shared with me by interview her knowledge of fistula and experiences with the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, which she has been visiting for 10 years, as well as Seattle’s Dr. Julie LaCombe MD FACOG who has performed fistula surgeries in Uganda and Bangladesh and met with me personally to share about obstetrical trauma and fistula surgery and management.

Nancy, Terri and I will look forward to sharing photos and more about our journey and experiences, upon our return. In the meantime, check out the Campaign to End Fistula and join the campaign.

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Pelvic Floor Level 1 is Heading to Kenya

In the spring of 2019, myself and two lab assistants will have the privilege of teaching PF1 to Kenyan physical therapists through the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) in Nairobi, Kenya. The program at KMTC started six years ago by Washington DC-based physical therapist Richard Jackson, and The Jackson Clinics Foundation (Teachandtreat.org), with a focus on orthopedic manual therapy. A neuro rehab program ensued two years later, and the aim for this women’s health program is to build a three level course series similar to the way it is taught in the United States. The goal of all of these programs is to transition them to Kenyan faculty within six years, which has recently occurred in the orthopedic component. Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehab Institute has graciously agreed to donate curriculum content to the women’s health course component.

Kenya Medical Training CollegeTeaching assistant Terri Lannigan, PT, DPT, OCS, who has taught the lumbopelvic girdle course in the orthopedic program, and also practices women’s health physical therapy in the US, began laying the groundwork for this program with her students and in the Nairobi community last December. “Not only is there a tremendous need, but there is a lot of excitement from a group of students currently taking courses in the program, that women’s health education is coming to KMTC!”

Over the past month, I have been editing the Pelvic Floor 1 course to tailor it to our Kenyan physical therapist audience. The overwhelming majority of Kenyan PT’s do not have access to biofeedback or electric stim, so those sections will be omitted. As there are no documentation or coding requirements in the Kenyan health system, those sections of curriculum will also be edited out. Many of Terri’s PT students complained of significant underemployment, so we will keep the marketing component in our lectures, in hopes to promote expansion of women’s health PT to a larger segment of the Kenyan population.

Meanwhile, teaching assistant Kathy Golic, PT of Overlake Hospital Medical Center’s Pelvic Health Program in Bellevue, WA has headed up the data collection for a lecture on managing fistula and obstetric trauma. Kathy has accumulated data from many sources and conferred with several PTs currently involved in both clinical education as well as direct patient care in multiple African nations, to help us to create relevant, meaningful and culturally appropriate curriculum for this section of the PF1 course.

Pelvic Floor Level 1 will be offered between March 25 – April 6, 2019 at Kenya Medical Training College. We will post photos and additional information of our class and our experiences. We are grateful to Herman and Wallace and The Jackson Clinics Foundation for allowing us to be involved in this exciting endeavor.

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Pelvic Pain and Dysfunction; a Differential Diagnosis Manual by Peter Philip

Dr. Peter Philip, a faculty member with the Herman & Wallace Institute, has published a new book! "Pelvic Pain and Dysfunction: A Differential Diagnosis Manual" is available now through Thieme Medical Publishers. We caught up with Dr. Philip to learn a bit more about his project.
Peter is also the author and instructor of two courses offered through Herman & Wallace. Sacroiliac Joint Evaluation and Treatment is an opportunity to learn an exercise and stabilization approach to pelvic girdle, sacroiliac joint, and pelvic ring dysfunction. This course is available twice in 2016; May 21-22 in Austin, TX and later on November 6-7 in Bayshore, NY. Peter's other course, Differential Diagnostics of Chronic Pelvic Pain: Interconnections of the Spine, Neurology and the Hips, expands the practitioner's diagnostic toolkit for complicated chronic pelvic pain patients. This course is available on August 19-21 in Nashville, TN. Don't miss out!


H&W: Thanks for doing this interview, Peter! What's new?
Dr. Philip: After years of research, and writing, my textbook has been published and is ready for the public.


H&W: That's great! What can you tell us about the book?
Dr. Philip: It's called Pelvic Pain and Dysfunction; a Differential Diagnosis Manual, and it has been published by Thieme. Thieme is based out of Stuttgart Germany and is the world’s largest distributor of medical textbooks and journals! The purpose of the book is to answer the questions that so many clinicians have as it relates to their patient’s pain, such as:

  • Why are there muscle spasms?
  • How can the pain seemingly spread from one organ to the next? Or even from one system to another?
  • How can I effectively and efficiently evaluate my patients who suffer with pelvic, bladder, bowel, or visceral pain and dysfunction?
  • And so much more

The textbook also outlines a revolutionary strategy that immediately provides the patient with a reduction in their pain, and often immediate resolution of tight “spasms” or “trigger points”. The mysteries of how and why our patients' pain changes and progresses are outlined in a clear, linear fashion that integrates into a practitioner's current practice. The purpose of the textbook is to provide a means of understanding where pain originates and how to isolate it to a specific region. Once isolated, the book instructs how to treat that region effectively.


H&W: you mean to tell me that you’ve created a method which allows a suffering patient to experience “immediate relief”?
Dr. Philip: Yes! And it's actually quite simple once you understand the anatomy, and the integration of the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, psychology, viscera, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves.


H&W: Who is this textbook written for?
Dr. Philip: the textbook is written for all my colleagues who treat patients with pelvic pain. Medical Doctors and Doctors of Science in both the United States and Germany have reviewed the material and found the information, concepts and strategies to be useful.


H&W: how did you put this all together?
Dr. Philip: I realized years ago that the field of pelvic health did not take into consideration the multiple facets that may be involved in a patient’s pain. Many strategies employed simply address restrictions in tissue mobility by “stretching” or “massaging” without taking into consideration the reason these structures are limited in mobility, or have spasms. Knowing why a structure is limited in its mobility or is spastic will allow the clinician to immediately address the suffering patient's needs and promote healing, even if the patient has been suffering for decades.


H&W: but how did you come up with this process?

Dr. Philip: my background is in non-surgical orthopedic medicine. Having three degrees in orthopedic physical therapy, and a certification by the International Academy of Orthopedic Medicine, I applied the differential diagnostic concepts of orthopedic medicine to the pelvic pain population with great success! Using the principles found within this textbook the clinician will have the opportunity to address the exact tissue at fault, provide a near immediate resolution of their pain, and provide a means for the patient to completely regain their wellness and move forward in their life.


H&W: I can see why you are so excited. Is this textbook available yet?
Dr. Philip: yes it is. It can be found at http://www.thieme.com/books-main/obstetrics-and-gynecology/product/3517-pelvic-pain-and-dysfunction. I put in a lot of effort to keep the book comfortably priced at $99.00! I know how tight cash can be for students and the working professional, so keeping it affordable was paramount to me.


H&W: What a fantastic project. Thank you so very much for taking the time to share it with us!


Dr. Philip: It's been a pleasure. Thank you to the Herman and Wallace Institute for allowing me to introduce my textbook and to teach these concepts and strategies.

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Today Marks 10 Years Since the Founding of Herman & Wallace

Today, September 28th, marks the ten year anniversary of the founding of Herman & Wallace! The Institute was founded on this day in 2005 by Holly Herman, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, WCS, BCB-PMD, PRPC and Kathe Wallace, PT, BCB-PMD with a mission of providing the very best evidence-based continuing education related to pelvic floor and pelvic girdle dysfunction in men and women throughout the life cycle.

By Joey Gannon from Pittsburgh, PA (Candles) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsSince our founding, it’s been our privilege to spread this mission through an ever-increasing number of course offerings, products, resources and certification so that therapists can meet their goals and patients can access trained practitioners who can address their needs.

To celebrate with us, use the discount code HappyBirthday for $10 off your next downloadable Herman & Wallace product!

In the past ten years, we’ve significantly expanded our course offerings. Currently-offered courses cover pediatrics and geriatrics, sexual health, yoga and Pilates, oncology, meditation and mindfulness, and a number of other topics instructed by some of the foremost experts in the field, with whom we are thrilled to work and provide a platform to spread their knowledge. In addition to our flagship Pelvic Floor series courses which were the first offered by the Institute, H&W now offers 46 live courses and 14 online courses on topics related to pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as related women’s health, men’s health and orthopedic topics.

We have also had the opportunity to take this mission abroad and have offered pelvic floor courses in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Chile, Brazil, the UK and Europe. In 2013, H&W launched the first-ever certification recognizing expertise in treating pelvic floor dysfunction in men and women throughout the life cycle, the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification. Since then, 84 practitioners have sat for and passed this exam and earned PRPC as a designation of their competence in evaluating and treating pelvic rehab patients. This coming year and beyond, we are looking forward to continuing with our mission of providing the very best education and resources for pelvic rehab therapists. We are continuing to expand our offerings of intermediate and advanced- level Pelvic Floor coursework for experienced therapists, as well as an increasing number of scheduled events for our introductory courses so that more practitioners can begin learning the skills needed to serve this growing patient population.

Over these years, the best part is hearing from therapists that our mission is changing lives for practitioners and for patients. This recent email we received from a course participant is the best birthday gift we received!:
“I always gain so much from your courses and they are the first ones I look to each year for simply excellent use of my education dollars and to further my knowledge of Women’s/Men’s/Children’s Pelvic Health. Kuddo’s to you, sincerely, for really making a difference in the lives of so many – that you, as therapists, work with directly, AND that you “work with” through each therapist that you train. What a huge ripple effect for making the difference in the lives of many…..and on such personal issues. And I give due credit to you with each patient I see for the training I have and am still receiving! Thank-you!!!!”

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It's About More than the Pelvic Floor (Why We Offer New Courses)

The Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute was founded nearly a decade ago by physical therapists and educators Kathe Wallace and Holly Herman. The Institute has served as a platform for foundational to advanced pelvic rehabilitation coursework that covers a wide variety of topics. Included in some of the newer coursework is content directed at more general orthopedics or women’s health topics, such as:

Occasionally, as we have continued to expand our offerings at the Institute, participants have expressed concern that a few of the courses are “not pelvic floor” related. We wanted to take a moment to share our perspective regarding that concern:

1. Most pelvic rehabilitation providers are not exclusively working with patients who have pelvic floor dysfunction.
When we completed a survey of job task analysis among pelvic rehabilitation therapists, we learned that many therapists are not working with patients who have pelvic dysfunction 100% of their time, and that general musculoskeletal care makes up a large part of many pelvic rehab therapists’ caseload. Unfortunately, many patients aren’t often dealing with only one dysfunction, so our patients who present with urinary incontinence may also have foot pain, or headaches, for example.

2. Many pelvic rehabilitation providers also describe themselves as orthopedic therapists.
The majority of therapists who responded to our job analysis survey (and those who attend our courses) work in either an outpatient facility or a hospital-based outpatient facility. In fact, many of the respondents are board-certified in orthopedics. Outpatient facilities typically require that a therapist can work with any part of the body, in addition to the pelvis.

3. General orthopedic rehabilitation is closely related to pelvic rehabilitation.
There are an overwhelming number of ways that a patient’s comorbid conditions can be related to the pelvic floor. For example, a patient with foot pain may unload the involved side, placing increased strain on the hip, pelvis, and low back on the opposite side. Another patient who has poor balance may decrease their degrees of freedom by holding the trunk and pelvic muscles tense in order to compensate for a balance difficulty. A patient who has migraines may have to spend a significant amount of time lying flat when she has migraines, potentially leading to discomfort in other joints.

4. We have not decreased the amount of pelvic courses we offer in exchange for general, orthopedic courses. On the contrary, the Institute has continued to add more focused pelvic rehabilitation courses such as Post-Prostatectomy Patient Rehabilitation, Assessing and Treating Women with Vulvodynia, and Geriatric Pelvic Floor Rehab.

In short, we have chosen to offer some coursework that is not solely focused on the pelvis, because these courses can provide benefits to the therapists and to the patients they serve. The Institute is always interested in participant feedback, and is willing to try out new courses to gauge interest level and satisfaction with new courses. As always, you will be provided with the best in pelvic rehabilitation education, and have opportunities to take courses from instructors who offer additional skills and expertise. If you have any questions, or suggestions about course content, please let us know by filling out the Contact Us form on the website. And if you have an idea for a new course you’d like to teach that adds to our existing offerings, we’d love to hear from you- please fill out this form if you have a new course idea.

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Meet the Instructor of Manual Therapy for the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex

This post features an interview with Eric Dinkins, PT, MSPT, OCS, MCTA, CMP, Cert. MT, who will be instructing the brand new course, Manual Therapy for the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex: Mobilization with Movement including Laser-Guided Feedback for Core Stabilization. Pelvic Rehab Report sat down with Eric to learn a little bit more about his course and his clinical approach

Eric Dinkins

Can you describe the clinical/treatment approach/techniques covered in this continuing education course?

During this two day lab based course, clinicians will learn anatomy, assessment techniques, and manual therapy techniques that are designed to minimize pain and restore function immediately. As a bonus, clinicians will be introduced to stabilization exercises utilizing the Motion Guidance visual feedback system for these areas. This system allows for immediate feedback for both the clinician and the patient on determining preferred or substituted movement patterns, and enhancing motor learning to quickly address these patterns if desired.

What inspired you to create this course?

Women's and Men's health patients often have concurrent orthopedic problems that contribute to the pain or dysfunction that they are experiencing in the lumbar spine, pelvis, hips and sexual organs. There are few manual therapy courses offered that are able to bridge a gap between these two topics. This makes for a unique opportunity to offer manual therapy techniques that can address these problems and help improve clinic outcomes.

What resources and research were used when writing this course?

The books and resources I pulled from include:

Mulligan Concept of Manual Therapy 2015

Travell and Simmons Volume 2. Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. The Lower Extremities

Principles of Manual Medicine 4th Edition

www.motionguidance.com

Why should a therapist take this course? How can these skill sets benefit his/ her practice?

PT's, PTA, DO's and DC's should take this course to give them knowledge and manual skills of pain free techniques to offer their Women's Health, Men's Health, and pregnancy patients with orthopedic conditions.

 

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Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Oct 18, 2019 - Oct 20, 2019
Location: The George Washington University

Oct 18, 2019 - Oct 20, 2019
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Nov 15, 2019 - Nov 17, 2019
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Location: Nova Southeastern University