Retroperitoneal Causes of Genitourinary Pain Syndromes: Systematic Approach to Evaluation and Management

Sex Med Rev. 2022 Oct;10(4):529-542. doi: 10.1016/j.sxmr.2022.06.009. Epub 2022 Sep 8.


Introduction: Women with pelvic pain commonly report pain in their ovaries, vagina, uterus, or bladder. These symptoms may be caused by visceral genitourinary pain syndromes but also may be caused by musculoskeletal disorders of the abdomen and pelvis. Understanding neuroanatomical and musculoskeletal factors that may contribute to genitourinary pain is important for evaluation and management.

Objectives: This review aims to (i) highlight the importance of clinical knowledge of pelvic neuroanatomy and sensory dermatomal distribution of the lower abdomen, pelvis, and lower extremities, exemplified in a clinical case; (ii) review common neuropathic and musculoskeletal causes of acute and chronic pelvic pain that may be challenging to diagnose and manage; and (iii) discuss female genitourinary pain syndromes with a focus on retroperitoneal causes and treatment options.

Methods: A comprehensive review of the literature was performed by searching the PubMed, Ovid Embase, MEDLINE, and Scopus databases using the keywords "chronic pelvic pain," "neuropathy," "neuropathic pain," "retroperitoneal schwannoma," "pudendal neuralgia," and "entrapment syndromes."

Results: Retroperitoneal causes of genitourinary pain syndromes have substantial overlap with common conditions treated in a primary care setting. Thus, a comprehensive and systematic history and physical examination, with focused attention to the pelvic neuroanatomy, is key to establishing the correct diagnosis. In the clinical case, such a comprehensive approach led to the unexpected finding of a large retroperitoneal schwannoma. This case highlights the intricacy of pelvic pain syndromes and the complex nature of their possible overlapping causes, which ultimately affects treatment planning.

Conclusion: Knowledge of the neuroanatomy and neurodermatomes of the abdomen and pelvis, in addition to understanding pain pathophysiology, is critical when evaluating patients with pelvic pain. Failure to apply proper evaluation and implement proper multidisciplinary management strategies contributes to unnecessary patient distress, decreased quality of life, and increased use of health care services. Khalife T, Hagen AM, Alm JEC. Retroperitoneal Causes of Genitourinary Pain Syndromes: Systematic Approach to Evaluation and Management. Sex Med Rev 2022;10:529-542.

Keywords: Entrapment Syndromes; Genitourinary Pain; Neuropathy; Pudendal Neuralgia; Radiculopathy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain* / diagnosis
  • Chronic Pain* / etiology
  • Chronic Pain* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neurilemmoma* / complications
  • Pelvic Pain / diagnosis
  • Pelvic Pain / etiology
  • Pelvic Pain / therapy
  • Pudendal Neuralgia*
  • Quality of Life
  • Syndrome