Magnetic resonance imaging to determine the distribution of a vaginal gel: before, during, and after both simulated and real intercourse

Contraception. 2002 Dec;66(6):443-51. doi: 10.1016/s0010-7824(02)00412-2.


To provide effective contraception and protection against sexually transmitted disease, vaginal gels should maximally cover the cervical os and the vaginal epithelium before, during and after intercourse. To non-invasively monitor the intravaginal distribution of an applied intravaginal gel, we performed high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the female pelvis before, during and after both real and simulated sexual intercourse. We sought to determine whether simulated intercourse with a plastic phallus could be used as a surrogate for real intercourse for such experiments. Dilute gadolinium chelate solution was mixed with Gynol-II gel and introduced intravaginally to volunteer female human subjects using a conventional applicator. MRI was performed at 1.5 Tesla with a surface coil. Imaging of the female pelvis was performed: (1) immediately after insertion of the gel; (2) during real intercourse with a male partner (2 subjects) or simulated intercourse with a plastic phallus (4 subjects); and (3) after completion of real or simulated intercourse. Subjects were studied after application of both 3 mL and 5 mL of vaginal gel. Measurements of gel thickness covering the vaginal mucosa were made digitally using electronic calipers. The bolus of gel is initially located in the upper vaginal canal, superior to the urogenital diaphragm. Both real and simulated intercourse dramatically increases the spread of gel to the lower vagina. The cervix appears to be adequately covered with gel both before and after intercourse. Increasing the volume of the gel increases initial vaginal mucosal coverage but also increases leakage from the introitus. No statistically significant differences in vaginal mucosal coverage were found between patients having undergone real vs. simulated intercourse, or on post-intercourse scans of 3 mL versus 5 mL. MRI is a sensitive, reproducible means of tracking the spread of intravaginal medications.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravaginal
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Cervix Uteri / chemistry
  • Chelating Agents / administration & dosage
  • Coitus*
  • Female
  • Gadolinium / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Solutions
  • Spermatocidal Agents / administration & dosage
  • Vagina / chemistry*
  • Vaginal Creams, Foams, and Jellies / administration & dosage
  • Vaginal Creams, Foams, and Jellies / analysis*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Chelating Agents
  • Solutions
  • Spermatocidal Agents
  • Vaginal Creams, Foams, and Jellies
  • Gadolinium