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Pelvic connective tissue resilience decreases with vaginal delivery, menopause and uterine prolapse. BJS 2003; 90: 466-472.

Published: 29th January 2003

Authors: N. H. J. Reay Jones, J. C. Healy, L. J. King, S. Saini, S. Shousha, T. G. Allen‐Mersh et al.

Background

The late onset of pelvic visceral prolapse and incontinence after childbirth injury could be explained by menopause‐associated connective tissue weakening. Uterosacral ligament resilience (UsR) was assessed to determine whether it influenced uterine or pelvic floor mobility, or varied with age, vaginal delivery, menopause or histological variations in the ligament.

Method

UsR was measured by tensiometry in ligaments from 85 hysterectomy specimens, and was correlated with the presence of symptomatic uterocervical prolapse, prehysterectomy uterine and anorectal mobility, patient age, history of vaginal delivery and menopause. Forty‐five of these ligaments were examined for ligament thickness, muscle to collagen ratio, and oestrogen and progesterone receptor density. The results were correlated with UsR.

Results

UsR was significantly reduced (P = 0·02) in symptomatic uterovaginal prolapse, but there was no correlation with either uterocervical or anorectal descent in women without symptomatic prolapse. There was a significant decrease in UsR with vaginal delivery (P = 0·003), menopause (P = 0·009) and older age (P = 0·005). The uterosacral ligament was significantly thinner and contained fewer oestrogen and progesterone receptors after menopause, but this did not affect UsR.

Conclusion

Where pelvic floor muscles are weakened, decreases in pelvic connective tissue resilience related to the menopause may facilitate progression to symptomatic pelvic visceral prolapse. Copyright © 2003 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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