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Pelvic organ prolapse in women: Diagnostic evaluation

Tola B Fashokun, MD, FACOG
Rebecca G Rogers, MD
Section Editor
Linda Brubaker, MD, FACS, FACOG
Deputy Editor
Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG


Pelvic organ prolapse (POP), the herniation of the pelvic organs to or beyond the vaginal walls, in women is diagnosed using pelvic examination. A medical history is also important to elicit prolapse-associated symptoms, since treatment is generally indicated only for symptomatic prolapse. (See "Pelvic organ prolapse in women: Choosing a primary surgical procedure", section on 'Women with symptomatic prolapse'.)

Historically, the severity of prolapse was graded using a variety of imprecise classification systems that were not easily reproduced or communicated in a standard way among clinicians [1]. The Pelvic Organ Prolapse Quantitation system (POPQ), introduced in 1996, has become the standard classification system [2].

Diagnostic evaluation of women with POP is reviewed here. An overview of POP, general principles of the pelvic examination and additional aspects of evaluation of women with POP are discussed separately. (See "Pelvic organ prolapse in women: An overview of the epidemiology, risk factors, clinical manifestations, and management" and "The gynecologic history and pelvic examination".)


POPQ system — The POPQ system is an objective, site-specific system for describing and staging POP in women [1]. The POPQ system involves quantitative measurements of various points representing anterior, apical, and posterior vaginal prolapse to create a "topographic" map of the vagina. These anatomic points can then be used to determine the stage of the prolapse (figure 1 and figure 2 and table 1) [1,3].

The POPQ has proven interobserver and intraobserver reliability [4]. Intraoperative POPQ measurements correlate well with preoperative findings, with slightly more prolapse under anesthesia when traction is placed on the POPQ points [5].


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Literature review current through: Apr 2015. | This topic last updated: Feb 19, 2015.
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