Epidemiology and outcome assessment of pelvic organ prolapse

Int Urogynecol J. 2013 Nov;24(11):1783-90. doi: 10.1007/s00192-013-2169-9.


Introduction and hypothesis: The aim was to determine the incidence and prevalence of pelvic organ prolapse surgery and describe how outcomes are reported.

Methods: Every 4 years and as part of the Fifth International Collaboration on Incontinence we reviewed the English-language scientific literature after searching PubMed, Medline, Cochrane library and Cochrane database of systematic reviews, published up to January 2012. Publications were classified as level 1 evidence (randomised controlled trials [RCT] or systematic reviews, level 2 (poor quality RCT, prospective cohort studies), level 3 (case series or retrospective studies) and level 4 (case reports). The highest level of evidence was utilised by the committee to make evidence-based recommendations based upon the Oxford grading system. A grade A recommendation usually depends on consistent level 1 evidence. A grade B recommendation usually depends on consistent level 2 and/or 3 studies, or "majority evidence" from RCTs. A grade C recommendation usually depends on level 4 studies or "majority evidence" from level 2/3 studies or Delphi processed expert opinion. A grade D "no recommendation possible" would be used where the evidence is inadequate or conflicting and when expert opinion is delivered without a formal analytical process, such as by Delphi .

Results: Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) when defined by symptoms has a prevalence of 3-6% and up to 50% when based upon vaginal examination. Surgery for prolapse is performed twice as commonly as continence surgery and prevalence varies widely from 6 to 18%. The incidence of POP surgery ranges from 1.5 to 1.8 per 1,000 women years and peaks in women aged 60-69. When reporting outcomes of the surgical management of prolapse, authors should include a variety of standardised anatomical and functional outcomes. Anatomical outcomes reported should include all POP-Q points and staging, utilising a traditional definition of success with the hymen as the threshold for success. Assessment should be prospective and assessors blinded as to the surgical intervention performed if possible and without any conflict of interest related to the assessment undertaken (grade C). Subjective success postoperatively should be defined as the absence of a vaginal bulge (grade C). Functional outcomes are best reported using valid, reliable and responsive symptom questionnaires and condition-specific HRQOL instruments (grade C). Sexual function is best reported utilising validated condition-specific HRQOL that assess sexual function or validated sexual function questionnaires such as the Pelvic Organ Prolapse/Incontinence Sexual Questionnaire (PISQ) or the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI). The sexual activity status of all study participants should be reported pre- and postoperatively under the following categories: sexually active without pain, sexually active with pain or not sexually active (grade C). Prolapse surgery should be defined as primary surgery, and repeat surgery sub-classified as primary surgery different site, repeat surgery, complications related to surgery and surgery for non-prolapse-related conditions (grade C).

Conclusion: Significant variation exists in the prevalence and incidence of pelvic organ prolapse surgery and how the outcomes are reported. Much of the variation may be improved by standardisation of definitions and outcomes of reporting on pelvic organ prolapse surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse / epidemiology
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse / surgery*
  • Prevalence