Musculoskeletal findings on MRI among postpartum women with persistent pelvic pain

Int Urogynecol J. 2021 Jul;32(7):1779-1783. doi: 10.1007/s00192-020-04441-y. Epub 2020 Oct 10.


Introduction and hypothesis: Persistent postpartum pelvic pain affects one in six women, and its source is often unexplained in the absence of obvious clinical findings. Musculoskeletal injuries during childbirth are common and can be detected using MRI or US; however, pelvic imaging is not standard of care in evaluating women with persistent pain. We hypothesize that clinical symptoms in women with unexplained persistent postpartum pelvic pain will correlate with musculoskeletal abnormalities identified on MRI in > 50% of cases.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study of women with persistent postpartum pelvic pain who underwent a pelvic MRI for this indication. Chart review was performed. MRI findings were classified as major (bone fracture, levator ani avulsion) or minor (edema, inflammation or partial levator ani defect). Descriptive statistics were used to describe the study population.

Results: Of the 252 women seen for postpartum pelvic pain, 18 patients met our study criteria. Half of women were primiparous (55.6%, n = 10). Operative delivery occurred in 27.8% (n = 5), 22.2% (n = 4) had anal sphincter lacerations, and 38.9% (n = 7) had prolonged second stage of labor. Median time from delivery to MRI was 4.5 ± 5.13 (IQR) months. Musculoskeletal abnormalities were found in 94.4% (n = 17) of cases; 38.8% (n = 7) were major and 55.6% (n = 10) were minor abnormalities. All findings correlated with presenting symptoms.

Conclusion: Of women with persistent postpartum pelvic pain, 94.4% had musculoskeletal abnormalities supporting their clinical symptoms. Pelvic floor imaging should be considered in women with unexplained persistent postpartum pelvic pain to accurately manage the source of their pain.

Keywords: Childbirth injury; Magnetic resonance imaging; Pelvic pain; Postpartum pain.

MeSH terms

  • Anal Canal
  • Delivery, Obstetric*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pelvic Pain / diagnostic imaging
  • Pelvic Pain / etiology
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies