• Clitoris;
  • Female Sexual Function and Dysfunction;
  • Microbiopsy;
  • Ultrastructure


Introduction.  There has never been an investigation about the in vivo clitoral structure.

Aim.  To study the “in vivo” age-related structural changes of the clitoris in healthy women and in those affected by metabolic disorders.

Methods.  Forty-three women subgrouping in (i) five teenagers, aged 14–18; (ii) eight young premenopausal women, aged 23–32; (iii) 10 premenopausal women, aged 38–47; (iv) nine diabetic premenopausal women, aged 27–43; and (v) 11 naturally postmenopausal women aged 51–55. Each woman underwent microbiopsy of the clitoral body by means of an 18G needle, length 100 mm, using a semiautomatic gun during total anesthesia for a benign gynecological pathology. The tissue removed was processed for electron microscopy. A morphometric procedure was used on electron micrographs.

Main Outcome Measure.  Micro ultrastructure observation of clitoral tissue.

Results.  The cavernous tissue from the teenagers and young women showed large amounts of smooth muscle cells (SMCs). The intercellular connective tissue showed scanty, small isometric collagen fibers and amorphous extracellular matrix. In the premenopausal diabetic women, ultrastructural abnormalities of SMCs were observed, consisting of increase of glycogen deposits, infolding cell borders, and cytoplasmic vacuoles. Moreover, the intercellular connective tissue was increased by densely packed collagen fibers. Finally, in the healthy, natural postmenopausal women, the SMCs were moderately reduced in number. We observed age-related structural changes of the vascular spaces and of the vascular lacunae. The SMC mean thickness was reduced with age; vascular abnormalities appeared to be correlated with the presence of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes.

Conclusion.  Our “in vivo” study could help to understand some aspects of the physiology of the clitoris and its role in sexual response. Apart from data obtained by studying healthy women and women affected by diabetes, other investigations are needed to study subgroups of otherwise healthy sexually dysfunctional women. Caruso S, Cianci A, Malandrino C, Cavallari L, Gambadoro O, Arena G, Pispisa L, Agnello C, Romano M, and Cavallari V. Ultrastructural and quantitative study of clitoral cavernous tissue from living subjects. J Sex Med 2011;8:1675–1685.