Surgical treatment for chronic pelvic pain

JSLS. 1998 Apr-Jun;2(2):129-39.


The source of chronic pelvic pain may be reproductive organ, urological, musculoskeletal-neurological, gastrointestinal, or myofascial. A psychological component almost always is a factor, whether as an antecedent event or presenting as depression as result of the pain. Surgical interventions for chronic pelvic pain include: 1) resection or vaporization of vulvar/vestibular tissue for human papillion virus (HPV) induced or chronic vulvodynia/vestibulitis; 2) cervical dilation for cervix stenosis; 3) hysteroscopic resection for intracavitary or submucous myomas or intracavitary polyps; 4) myomectomy or myolysis for symptomatic intramural, subserosal or pedunculated myomas; 5) adhesiolysis for peritubular and periovarian adhesions, and enterolysis for bowel adhesions, adhesiolysis for all thick adhesions in areas of pain as well as thin ahesions affecting critical structures such as ovaries and tubes; 6) salpingectomy or neosalpingostomy for symptomatic hydrosalpinx; 7) ovarian treatment for symptomatic ovarian pain; 8) uterosacral nerve vaporization for dysmenorrhea; 9) presacral neurectomy for disabling central pain primarily of uterine but also of bladder origin; 10) resection of endometriosis from all surfaces including removal from bladder and bowel as well as from the rectovaginal septal space. Complete resection of all disease in a debulking operation is essential; 11) appendectomy for symptoms of chronic appendicitis, and chronic right lower quadrant pain; 12) uterine suspension for symptoms of collision dyspareunia, pelvic congestion, severe dysmenorrhea, cul-desac endometriosis; 13) repair of all hernia defects whether sciatic, inguinal, femoral, Spigelian, ventral or incisional; 14) hysterectomy if relief has not been achieved by organ-preserving surgery such as resection of all endometriosis and presacral neurectomy, or the central pain continues to be disabling. Before such a radical step is taken, MRI of the uterus to confirm presence of adenomyosis may be helpful; 15) trigger point injection therapy for myofascial pain and dysfunction in pelvic and abdominal muscles. With application of all currently available laparoscopic modalities, 80% of women with chronic pelvic pain will report a decrease of pain to tolerable levels, a significant average reduction which is maintained in 3-year follow-up. Individual factors contributing to pain cannot be determined, although the frequency of endometriosis dictates that its complete treatment be attempted. The beneficial effect of uterosacral nerve ablation may be as much due to treatment of occult endometriosis in the uterosacral ligaments as to transection of the nerve fibers themselves. The benefit of the presacral neurectomy appears to be definite but strictly limited to midline pain. Appendectomy, herniorraphy, and even hysterectomy are all appropriate therapies for patients with chronic pelvic pain. Even with all laparoscopic procedures employed, fully 20% of patients experience unsatisfactory results. In addition, these patients are often depressed. Whether the pain contributes to the depression or the depression to the pain is irrelevant to them. Selected referrals to an integrated pain center with psychologic assistance together with judicious prescription of antidepressant drugs will likely benefit both women who respond to surgical intervention and those who do not. A maximum surgical effort must be expended to resect all endometriosis, restore normal pelvic anatomy, resect nerve fibers, and treat surgically accessible disease. In addition, it is important to provide patients with chronic pelvic pain sufficient psychologic support to overcome the effects of the condition, and to assist them with underlying psychologic disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Female Urogenital Diseases / complications
  • Female Urogenital Diseases / surgery
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / surgery
  • Hernia / complications
  • Herniorrhaphy
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / methods*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / complications
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / surgery
  • Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Nervous System Diseases / surgery
  • Pelvic Pain / diagnosis
  • Pelvic Pain / etiology
  • Pelvic Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pelvic Pain / psychology
  • Prognosis
  • Treatment Outcome