Health Watch -- Prolapse Surgery Tested

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New surgical techniques could help women with a problem few want to talk about.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas are beginning a clinical trial of innovative surgical techniques for treating pelvic organ prolapse. This condition occurs when the rectal wall bulges into the vagina. Doctors don't know how many women suffer from this condition because there's no national registry. Not all doctors and nurses have the experience to make the diagnosis, and women often are reluctant to talk about the problem, even with their doctors.

Dr. Mikio Nihira, the UT Southwestern gynecologist conducting the study, says that most women with a prolapse may notice a bulging sensation, especially after going to the bathroom. They may also experience constipation. Some women who notice the bulge may worry that it's cancer. How big a problem the prolapse causes varies from woman to woman and often has little correlation with the size of the bulge.

The study will compare surgical techniques for treating prolapse. Some women participating in the study will be treated with the established technique, one that's been used for many years. Others will be treated with a newer technique in which surgeons repair gaps in the connective tissue in the wall between the rectum and the vagina. A third group will be treated with a revolutionary approach in which graft material is used to strengthen the connective tissue.

Doctors will compare results among the three groups and report their findings at the conclusion of the trial.

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Sept. 2004

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