Introduction. Prolapse surgery has been shown to have major impact on sexual function. Since prolapse surgery not only influences psychological factors but might also influence physiological conditions such as vaginal innervation, there is a need for objective outcome measurements to better understand the effects of prolapse surgery on sexual function.
Aims. To assess the effects of prolapse surgery with or without stress incontinence surgery on vaginal sensibility and to assess the relationship between vaginal wall sensibility and sexual well-being.
Methods. This study was performed parallel to a randomized controlled trial comparing vaginal and abdominal prolapse surgery with or without incontinence surgery in women with uterine prolapse stage 2 or more.
Main Outcome Measures. Vaginal wall sensibility was defined as mean sensation threshold to electrical stimulation of the vaginal wall at four standardized places, measured before and 6 months after surgery. Higher sensation thresholds postsurgery relative to presurgery indicate diminished vaginal wall sensibility. Sexual function was assessed at the same time points using a questionnaire.
Results. Data on vaginal wall sensibility were obtained from 65 patients. The sensibility of the distal posterior (P = 0.02) and distal anterior (P = 0.10) vaginal wall decreased after vaginal surgery compared to abdominal surgery. Abdominal prolapse surgery with incontinence surgery decreased sensibility of the distal part of the anterior vaginal wall significantly more than abdominal prolapse surgery only (P = 0.01). Before surgery, vaginal wall sensibility was lower in women who reported vaginal dryness or anorgasmia. The presence of genital pain was associated with higher vaginal wall sensibility. Postoperative vaginal wall sensibility was similar in women with and without sexual problems.
Conclusion. Vaginal prolapse surgery as well as abdominal prolapse surgery with additional incontinence surgery resulted in decreased vaginal wall sensibility. This pilot study shows no influence of the decreased vaginal wall sensibility on sexual well-being. Larger studies are needed to better understand the association between changes in vaginal wall sensibility and changes in sexual well-being. Lakeman MME, van der Vaart CH, Laan E, and Roovers J-PWR. The effect of prolapse surgery on vaginal sensibility. J Sex Med 2011;8:1239–1245.