Microscopic and ultrastructural modifications of postmenopausal atrophic vaginal mucosa after fractional carbon dioxide laser treatment

Lasers Med Sci. 2015 Jan;30(1):429-36. doi: 10.1007/s10103-014-1677-2. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Vaginal atrophy occurring during menopause is closely related to the dramatic decrease in ovarian estrogens due to the loss of follicular activity. Particularly, significant changes occur in the structure of the vaginal mucosa, with consequent impairment of many physiological functions. In this study, carried out on bioptic vaginal mucosa samples from postmenopausal, nonestrogenized women, we present microscopic and ultrastructural modifications of vaginal mucosa following fractional carbon dioxide (CO2) laser treatment. We observed the restoration of the vaginal thick squamous stratified epithelium with a significant storage of glycogen in the epithelial cells and a high degree of glycogen-rich shedding cells at the epithelial surface. Moreover, in the connective tissue constituting the lamina propria, active fibroblasts synthesized new components of the extracellular matrix including collagen and ground substance (extrafibrillar matrix) molecules. Differently from atrophic mucosa, newly-formed papillae of connective tissue indented in the epithelium and typical blood capillaries penetrating inside the papillae, were also observed. Our morphological findings support the effectiveness of fractional CO2 laser application for the restoration of vaginal mucosa structure and related physiological trophism. These findings clearly coupled with striking clinical relief from symptoms suffered by the patients before treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy
  • Connective Tissue / pathology
  • Connective Tissue / radiation effects
  • Connective Tissue / ultrastructure
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Epithelium / radiation effects
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lasers, Gas / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology
  • Mucous Membrane / radiation effects
  • Mucous Membrane / ultrastructure*
  • Postmenopause / radiation effects*
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Vagina / pathology*
  • Vagina / radiation effects
  • Vagina / ultrastructure*