Exploring options for POP treatment: Patient selection, surgical approaches, and ways to manage risks

Author and Disclosure Information

Four expert gynecologic surgeons offer tips on diagnosis, surgical and nonsurgical treatment approaches, and patient factors to consider



A number of presentations at the 2019 Pelvic Anatomy and Gynecologic Surgery (PAGS) Symposium (Las Vegas, Nevada, December 12-14, 2019) focused on pelvic organ prolapse (POP) repair, including anatomic considerations, the evolution of surgical procedures, and transvaginal repair. OBG Management caught up with John B. Gebhart, MD, MS, and 3 other experts in gynecologic surgery for a discussion on current approaches for diagnosing and treating POP, including an exchange on the removal of the mesh option for transvaginal prolapse repair.

Nonsurgical approaches for POP: A good option for the right patient

John B. Gebhart, MD, MS: What are the nonsurgical options for POP?

Mark D. Walters, MD: Women who have prolapse could, of course, choose to continue to live with the prolapse. If they desire treatment, however, the main nonsurgical option is a combination of pessary use, possibly with some estrogen, and possibly with pelvic muscle exercises. Women who have a well-fitting pessary can be managed satisfactorily for years. If possible, women should be taught to take the pessary in and out on a regular basis to minimize their long-term complications.

Dr. Gebhart: How can nonsurgical treatment options be maximized?

Beri M. Ridgeway, MD: It depends on patient commitment. This is important to assess at the first visit when you are making management decisions, because if someone is not going to attend physical therapy or not going to continue to do the exercises, the expectation for the outcome is not going to be great.

Also, if a patient feels very uncomfortable using a pessary and really does not want it, I am fine proceeding with surgery as a first-line treatment. If the patient is committed, the ideal is to educate her and connect her with the right people, either a pelvic floor physical therapist or someone in your office who will encourage her and manage pessary use.

Dr. Gebhart: It goes back to assessing patient goals and expectations.

Mickey M. Karram, MD: If you have a patient who is a good candidate for a pessary—say she has a well-supported distal vagina and maybe a cervical prolapse or an apical prolapse—and you can fit a small pessary that will sit in the upper vagina in a comfortable fashion, it is worthwhile to explain to the patient that she is a really good candidate for this option. By contrast, someone who has a wide genital hiatus and a large rectocele will not have good success with a pessary.

Dr. Gebhart: That is important: Choose your nonsurgical patients well, those who will respond to therapy and maybe not get frustrated with it.

Dr. Walters: A problem I see is that some people are good at fitting a pessary, but they do not teach how to use it very well. When I see the patient back, she says, “What’s my long term on the pessary?” I say, “If we teach you to take it in and out, you are less likely to have any problems with it, and then you can manage it for years that way. Otherwise, you have to keep visiting a practitioner to change it and that is not necessarily a good long-term option.” At the very first visit, I teach them what a pessary is, its purpose, and how to maintain it themselves. I think that gives patients the best chance for long-term satisfaction.

Dr. Gebhart: Surgery is always an option if pessary management is not satisfactory.

Dr. Ridgeway: I also tell patients, especially those uncertain about using a pessary, “Worst case, you spend a little time to figure this out, but if it works, you can avoid surgery. If it doesn’t—the risks are very low and you perhaps wasted some time—but at least you’ll know you tried the conservative management.”

Dr. Gebhart: Mickey made an excellent point earlier that it can be a diagnostic treatment strategy as well.

Dr. Karram: If you are concerned about the prolapse worsening or negatively impacting a functional problem related to the bladder or bowel, it is good to place a pessary for a short period of time. This can potentially give you an idea of how your surgery will impact a patient’s bladder or bowel function.

Continue to: Decisions to make before choosing a surgical approach...


Next Article: