Defibulation to treat female genital cutting: effect on symptoms and sexual function

Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Jul;108(1):55-60. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000224613.72892.77.


Objective: Women who have undergone type III female genital cutting may suffer long-term complications. Defibulation (reconstructive surgery of the infibulated scar) can alleviate some of these complications. We studied the physical and sexual outcomes after defibulation and evaluated both patient and husband satisfaction.

Methods: The medical records of 40 consecutive women with a history of type III female genital cutting who underwent defibulation between 1995 and 2003 were reviewed. Data collected included demographics, indications for the procedure, closure type, intraoperative and postoperative complications. Telephone surveys were conducted between 6 months and 2 years postprocedure to evaluate the long-term health and sexual satisfaction outcomes.

Results: Of 40 women identified as having undergone defibulation, 95% were Somali, 65% were married, and 73% were between the ages of 19 and 30. Primary indications for defibulation were being pregnant (30%), dysmenorrhea (30%), apareunia (20%), and dyspareunia (15%). Secondary indications were apareunia (20%), difficulty urinating (12.5%), and dyspareunia (10%). Sixty-five percent had a subcuticular repair. Forty-eight percent had an intact clitoris buried beneath the scar. None had intraoperative or postoperative complications. Of the 32 patients reached by telephone, 94% stated they would highly recommend it to others. One hundred percent of patients and their husbands were satisfied with the results, felt their appearance had improved, and were sexually satisfied.

Conclusion: Defibulation is recommended for all infibulated women who suffer long-term complications. The complication rates are minimal, with high satisfaction rates among patients and their husbands.

Level of evidence: II-3.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circumcision, Female / adverse effects
  • Circumcision, Female / rehabilitation*
  • Dyspareunia / surgery
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / surgery*
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / surgery
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Somalia / ethnology
  • Urination Disorders / surgery