Article

Pelvic Venous Disease: Identifying This Commonly Overlooked Cause of Chronic Pelvic Pain in Women

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Abstract

The causes of chronic pelvic pain (CPP) in women can be multifactorial and significantly affect quality of life. Finding the cause(s) for CPP often takes a multidisciplinary approach. One commonly overlooked cause of CPP is pelvic venous disease (PVD). The causal relationship between PVD and CPP has been well-documented in the literature, but with limited assessment or treatment guidelines to advise health care providers, there continues to be a limited understanding of PVD. This article aims to ensure nurse practitioners are well equipped to recognize women presenting with symptoms suggestive of PVD and expedite referral when needed for further evaluation.

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Nutcracker syndrome (NCS) is the most common term for compression of the left renal vein between the superior mesenteric artery and the abdominal aorta. The development of NCS is associated with the formation of the left renal vein (LRV) from the aortic collar during the sixth to eighth week of gestation and abnormal angulation of the superior mesenteric artery from the aorta. Collateralization of venous circulation is the most significant effect of NCS. It includes mainly the left gonadal vein and the communicating lumbar vein. Undiagnosed NCS may affect retroperitoneal surgery and other radiological and vascular procedures. The clinical symptoms of NCS may generally be described as renal presentation when symptoms like haematuria, left flank pain, and proteinuria occur, but urologic presentation is also possible. Radiological methods of confirming NCS include Doppler ultrasonography as a primary test, retrograde venography, which can measure the renocaval pressure gradient, computed tomography angiography, which is faster and less traumatic, intravascular ultrasound, and magnetic resonance angiography. Treatment can be conservative or surgical, depending on the severity of symptoms and degree of LRV occlusion. Nutcracker syndrome is worth considering especially in differential diagnosis of haematuria of unknown origin.
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David M Riding,1 Vivak Hansrani,2 Charles McCollum1 1Academic Surgery Unit, University of Manchester, 2Department of Vascular Surgery, University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester, UK Abstract: Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) affects 24% of premenopausal women, accounts for 20%–30% of UK gynecology outpatient appointments, and has an annual pan-European economic cost of €3.8 billion. Despite extensive investigation, often including laparoscopy, up to 55% of women do not receive a diagnosis and endure persistent symptoms. In these patients, clinical management focuses on symptom control rather than treatment. It is possible that pelvic vein incompetence (PVI) is a cause of CPP, although the quality of studies investigating an association is generally low. PVI may develop during and after pregnancy, as uterine blood flow increases significantly, pushing venous valve leaflets apart, and enabling retrograde venous flow. Analogies with varicose veins of the lower limb are helpful, and symptoms are similar. Women with symptomatic PVI report a dull pelvic ache that is worse on standing and sitting and persists throughout the day. It can be relieved by lying down. Early treatments for PVI included laparoscopic ligation; however, since the advent of endovascular occlusive techniques, treatments have lower risk and lower cost, and can be undertaken without sedation or anesthetic. However, there have been no high-quality randomized controlled trials of interventions and, therefore, the evidence is limited to single-center case series. Keywords: chronic pelvic pain, pelvic vein incompetence, women’s health
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Background: Pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS) is described as chronic pelvic pain (CPP) arising from dilated and refluxing pelvic veins, although the causal relationship between pelvic vein incompetence (PVI) and CPP is not established. Non-invasive screening methods such as Doppler ultrasound and magnetic resonance venography are used before confirmation by venography. Percutaneous embolisation has become the principal treatment for PCS, with high success rates often cited. Objectives: Our proposal aimed to systematically and critically review the definitions and diagnostic criteria of PCS, the association between PVI and CPP, the accuracy of various non-invasive imaging techniques and the effectiveness of embolisation for PVI; and to identify factors associated with successful outcome. We also wished to survey clinicians and patients to assess awareness and management of PCS and gauge the enthusiasm for further research. Data sources: A comprehensive search strategy encompassing various terms for pelvic congestion, pain, imaging techniques and embolisation was deployed in 17 bibliographic databases, including MEDLINE, EMBASE and Web of Science. There was no restriction on study design. Methods: Methodological quality was assessed using appropriate tools. Online surveys were sent to clinicians and patients. The quality and heterogeneity generally precluded meta-analysis and so results were tabulated and described narratively. Results: We identified six association studies, 10 studies involving ultrasound, two studies involving magnetic resonance venography, 21 case series and one poor-quality randomised trial of embolisation. There were no consistent diagnostic criteria for PCS. We found that the associations between CPP and PVI were generally fairly similar, with three of five studies with sufficient data showing statistically significant associations (odds ratios of between 31 and 117). The prevalence of PVI ranged widely, although the majority of women with PVI had CPP. Transvaginal ultrasound with Doppler and magnetic resonance venography are both useful screening methods, although the data on accuracy are limited. Early substantial relief from pain symptoms was observed in approximately 75% of women undergoing embolisation, a figure which generally increased over time and was sustained. Reintervention rates were generally low. Transient pain was a common occurrence following foam embolisation, while there was a < 2% risk of coil migration. Confidence in the embolisation technique is reasonably high, although there is a desire to strengthen the evidence base. Even among women with CPP, fewer than half had any knowledge about PCS. Conclusions: The data supporting the diagnosis and treatment of PCS are limited and of variable methodological quality. There is some evidence to tentatively support a causative association, but it cannot be categorically stated that PVI is the cause of CPP in women with no other pathology, as the six most pertinent drew on clinically disparate populations and defined PVI inconsistently. Embolisation appears to provide symptomatic relief in the majority of women and is safe. However, the majority of included studies of embolism were relatively small case series and only the randomised controlled trial was considered at risk of potential biases. There is scope and demand for considerable further research. The question of the association of PVI and CPP requires a well-designed and well-powered case-control study, which will also provide data to derive a diagnostic standard. An adequately powered randomised trial is essential to provide evidence on the effectiveness of embolisation, but this faces methodological challenges. Study registration: This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42012002237 and CRD42012002238. Funding: The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.
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Purpose: Pelvic congestion syndrome is an uncommon poorly understood and frequently misdiagnosed disorder of the pelvic venous circulation, which causes chronic pelvic pain in women in premenopausal age. This condition has typical features, such as pelvic varicosities, pelvic pain worsened by prolonged standing, coitus, menstruation, and pregnancy. Methods: The precise etiology of this syndrome remains uncertain, and it is probably multifactorial. Valvular insufficiency, venous obstruction, and hormones all may play a role in the development of congestion of the pelvic veins. Results: Pelvic pain and venous varices are often both present in premenopausal women, but not necessarily causally related. Furthermore, incompetent and dilated pelvic veins are a common finding in asymptomatic women. As such, it is challenging but important to determine which patients have chronic pelvic pain specifically related to pelvic congestion syndrome in order to treat them properly. Conclusions: Once the syndrome has been accurately diagnosed, medical, surgical, or minimally invasive endovascular treatments can improve symptoms in a high percentage of cases. This updated nonsystematic review of the literature explores the pathophysiology, clinical features, diagnostic investigations, and treatment option of this complex condition that affects young women with considerable implications for their daily social and psychological condition.
Article
The pelvic congestion syndrome definition includes two not so frequently overlapping scenarios: (i) pelvic venous engorgement with lower abdomen symptomatology; and (ii) lower limb varicose veins fed by pelvic escape points that are generally less prone to develop the abdominal clinical manifestation typical for pelvic congestion syndrome. We retrospectively evaluated 985 female patients (43±11 years old; 23±5kg/m² BMI) who visited our offices for lower limb varicose veins of pelvic origin. Second-level imaging was needed for 229 patients. The remaining 756 patients underwent direct echo-guided foam sclerotherapy in proximity of the pelvic escape points. At a mean follow-up of 4.1±1.4 years, 595 patients were successfully treated. Among the successfully treated group, mild lower abdomen heaviness and occasional dyspareunia was reported by 14 and 11 women, respectively, prior to the injection. At the end of the follow up, a significant reduction in the symptomatology was reported for both lower abdomen heaviness and dyspareunia. In traditional pelvic congestion syndrome, an accurate diagnosis protocol eventually ends in an interventional radiology suite. Conversely, in cases of lower limb varicose veins of pelvic origin, the phlebologist can, and in our opinion should, assume a pivotal role both in the diagnostic and therapeutic part.
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Chronic pelvic pain in women can arise from many causes and often results in significant declines in function and quality of life. A systematic approach for evaluating patients and initiating a management plan are recommended in the primary care setting. Comprehensive management strategies may include medication, pelvic physical therapy, and behavioral interventions.
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Background: Reflux in the ovarian veins, with or without an obstructive venous outflow component, is reported to be the primary cause of pelvic venous insufficiency (PVI). The degree to which venous outflow obstruction plays a role in PVI is currently ill-defined. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 227 women with PVI who presented to the Center for Vascular Medicine from January 2012 to September 2015. Assessments and interventions consisted of an evaluation for other causes of chronic pelvic pain by a gynecologist; preintervention and postintervention visual analog scale (VAS) pain score; complete venous duplex ultrasound examination; and Clinical, Etiology, Anatomy, and Pathophysiology classification. All patients underwent diagnostic venography of their pelvic and left ovarian veins as well as intravascular ultrasound of their iliac veins. Patients were treated in one of six ways: ovarian vein embolization (OVE) alone (chemical ± coils), OVE with staged iliac vein stenting, OVE with simultaneous iliac vein stenting, iliac vein stenting alone, OVE with venoplasty, and venoplasty alone. Results: Of the 227 women treated, the average age and number of pregnancies was 46.4 ± 10.4 years and 3.36 ± 1.99, respectively. Treatment distribution was the following: OVE, n = 39; OVE with staged stenting, n = 94; OVE with simultaneous stenting, n = 33; stenting alone, n = 50; OVE with venoplasty, n = 8; and venoplasty alone, n = 3. Seven patients in the OVE and stenting groups (staged) and one patient in the OVE + venoplasty group required a second embolization of the left ovarian vein. Eighty percent (181/227) of patients demonstrated an iliac stenosis >50% by intravascular ultrasound. Average VAS scores for the entire cohort before and after intervention were 8.45 ± 1.11 and 1.86 ± 1.61 (P ≤ .001). In the staged group, only 9 of 94 patients reported a decrease in the VAS score with OVE alone. VAS score decreased from 8.6 ± 0.89 before OVE to 7.97 ± 2.10 after OVE. After the planned staged stenting, VAS score decreased to 1.33 ± 2.33 (P ≤ .001). Similarly, in the simultaneous group, preintervention scores were 8.63 ± 1.07 and decreased to 2.36 ± 2.67 after OVE + stenting (P ≤ .001). Conclusions: The majority of patients in our series (80%) demonstrated a significant iliac vein stenosis. These observations indicate that the incidence of iliac vein outflow obstruction in PVI is greater than previously reported. In patients with combined ovarian vein reflux and iliac vein outflow obstruction, our data suggest that pelvic venous outflow lesions should be treated first and that ovarian vein reflux should be treated only if symptoms persist. In women with an outflow lesion, ovarian vein reflux, and a large pelvic reservoir, we recommend simultaneous treatment.
Article
Background Compression of left renal vein is an atypical cause of reflux in pelvic veins resulting in pelvic varices that in turn causes frequently lower limb varices in many cases. Methods A monocentric study was undertaken to report the treatment and five-year follow up of patients presenting left renal vein compression. Embolization of refluxive gonadal/pelvic veins was performed generally as the initial procedure. Left renal vein stenting was performed in patients presenting haematuria, severe lumbar pain or persistent pelvic/lower limb varices after embolization. Results From 462 cases of left renal vein compression, 40 were treated by stenting as first procedure. Four hundred twenty-two were treated by gonadal/pelvic vein embolization and only 15 needed complementary stenting. After follow-up, all cases with haematuria had improved and lumbar pain was eliminated in 81.5%. Patients with recurrent or persistant varices were all improved. Conclusion Left renal vein stenting should be considered an effective and safe procedure, with demonstrated durable efficacy and safety and no evidence of restenosis.
Article
Objective Pelvic venous incompetence can cause symptomatic varicose veins in the perineum, buttock, and thigh. Presentation, symptom severity, and response to treatment of pelvic source varicose veins are not well defined. Currently available tools to measure the severity of lower extremity venous disease and its effects on quality of life may be inadequate to assess disease severity in these patients. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the histories, demographics, and clinical presentations of women with pelvic source varicose veins and to compare these data to a population of women with nonpelvic source varicose veins. Methods A total of 72 female patients with symptomatic pelvic source varicose veins were prospectively followed up. Age, weight, height, parity, and birth weights of offspring were recorded. Both pelvic source varicose veins and saphenous incompetence were identified by duplex ultrasound. Patients were queried as to their primary symptoms, activities that made their symptoms worse, and time when their symptoms were most prominent. Severity of disease was objectively evaluated using the revised Venous Clinical Severity Score (rVCSS) and 10-point numeric pain rating scale (NPRS). Results Compared with women without a pelvic source of varicose veins (N = 1163), patients with pelvic source varicose veins were younger (mean, 44.6 ± 8.6 vs 52.6 ± 12.9 years; P < .001), had lower body mass index (mean, 21.9 ± 2.8 vs 25.8 ± 6.2; P < .001), and had larger babies than the U.S. population mean (mean, 3656 ± 450 g vs 3389 ± 466 g; P < .001). The most common symptoms were aching (68%), throbbing (47%), and heaviness (35%). In premenopausal patients, 70% noted that symptoms were worst during menses. NPRS score varied from 0 to 8 (mean, 4.9). The correlation between rVCSS (mean 5.6 ± 1.9) and NPRS was small (r = 0.26; P = .03). There was a modest correlation between older age and lower NPRS scores (r = −0.39; P < .001). Conclusions Women with pelvic source varicose veins are a unique subset of patients. They are younger and thinner than those with nonpelvic source varicose veins, have larger infants than the general U.S. population, and have an inverse correlation between age and pain. As the majority of premenopausal patients have increased symptoms during menses, this may be due to hormonal influence. As it is poorly associated with patient-reported discomfort, the rVCSS is a poor tool for evaluating pelvic source varicose veins. A disease-specific tool for the evaluation of pelvic source varicose veins is critically needed, and this study is a first step in that endeavor.
Article
Background Pelvic congestion syndrome is among the causes of pelvic pain. One of the diagnostic tools is pelvic venography using Beard’s criteria, which are 91% sensitive and 80% specific for this syndrome. Objective To assess the diagnostic performance of the clinical findings in women diagnosed with pelvic congestion syndrome coming to a Level III institution. Methods Descriptive retrospective study in women with chronic pelvic pain taken to transuterine pelvic venography at the Advanced Gynecological Laparoscopy and Pelvic Pain Unit of Clinica Comfamiliar, between August 2008 and December 2011, analyzing social, demographic, and clinical variables. Results A total of 132 patients with a mean age of 33.9 years. Dysmenorrhea, ovarian points, and vulvar varices have a sensitivity greater than 80%, and the presence of leukorrhea, vaginal mass sensation, the finding of an abdominal mass, abdominal trigger points, and positive pinprick test have a specificity greater than 80% when compared with venography. Conclusion This study may be considered as the first to evaluate the diagnostic performance of the clinical findings associated with pelvic congestion syndrome in a sample of the Colombian population. In the future, these findings may be used to create a clinical score for the diagnosis of this condition.
Article
Objective: Pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS) is widely thought to be due to ovarian or internal iliac vein reflux. This report of a retrospective review of treatment of nonthrombotic common iliac vein (CIV) or inferior vena cava (IVC) obstruction with relief of symptoms demonstrates an often overlooked pathologic process. Stent placement is evaluated as an effective treatment of PCS due to venous obstruction even if observed left ovarian vein (OV) reflux is left untreated. Methods: Records from two institutions were reviewed for patients with nonthrombotic venous outflow obstruction and symptoms of PCS severely affecting quality of life. The patients were evaluated with ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and intravascular ultrasound before stent placement. From January 2008 through May 2013, 19 patients were treated with stents for severe venous outflow obstruction. Although seven patients also were found to have OV reflux, only one of these was treated with left OV coil occlusion. Results: Whereas 10 of the 19 patients presented with a chief complaint of lower extremity pain, edema, or varicose veins, all patients described their pelvic symptoms as their dominant complaint. Ultrasound and CT suggested moderate to severe compression of the left CIV in 18 patients and a high-grade stenosis of the suprarenal IVC in one patient. Venography showed outflow obstruction with pelvic collaterals, and intravascular ultrasound confirmed focal severe stenosis of the involved vein. Follow-up of 1 to 59 months (median, 11 months) revealed complete resolution of pelvic pain in 15 of 19 patients and of dyspareunia in 14 of 17 sexually active patients. Of the 15 patients who experienced left lower extremity pain or edema before treatment, 13 experienced complete resolution after treatment. Imaging follow-up by ultrasound or CT showed 16 of the stents to be widely patent, with 3 minor asymptomatic stenoses. Conclusions: Nonthrombotic obstruction of the left CIV or IVC is an underappreciated cause of PCS. Venous angioplasty and stenting provide excellent short-term results for such patients, with resolution of chronic pelvic pain and dyspareunia. Venous obstruction should be considered and carefully evaluated in patients presenting with pelvic congestion, and treatment of obstruction alone may solve the patient's symptoms.
Article
OBJECTIVE. The purposes of this article are to review the causes of pelvic congestion syndrome and the imaging used to make the diagnosis and to summarize the treatment options. CONCLUSION. Pelvic congestion syndrome is one of many causes of chronic pelvic pain. It is thought to arise from ovarian and pelvic venous incompetence. Findings from various noninvasive imaging studies, such as Doppler ultrasound and MRI, in association with the clinical symptoms are critical in establishing the diagnosis.
Article
Background: Chronic pelvic pain accounts for up to 30% of outpatient gynecologic visits in the United States, potentially affecting up to 40% of the female population during their lifetime. Pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS) is defined as chronic pelvic pain resulting from reflux or obstruction of the gonadal, gluteal, or periuterine veins, sometimes associated with perineal or vulvar varices. It can also be caused by compression of the left renal vein (LRV) between the superior mesenteric artery and the aorta, also known as the nutcracker syndrome. Whereas PCS accounts for up to 30% of patients presenting with chronic pelvic pain, it is frequently underdiagnosed. We reviewed the literature to investigate the current state of the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder. Methods: An online database search was performed with MEDLINE. MeSH headings included PCS, chronic pelvic pain, ovarian vein reflux, nutcracker syndrome, renal vein obstruction, pelvic varicosities, labial varicosities, embolization, treatment, and therapies. Results: Our MEDLINE search revealed more than 3756 references to chronic pelvic pain. Specific references to PCS, pelvic chronic pain, ovarian vein reflux, nutcracker syndrome, renal vein obstruction, pelvic varicosities, labial varicosities, embolization, treatment, and therapies, however, included only 260 references. Thirty-seven references were small series including fewer than 50 patients or individual case reports documenting medical, surgical, or endovascular treatment of PCS. The majority of these papers demonstrated successful treatment of symptoms from PCS with embolization of one or both ovarian veins in addition to treatment of refluxing internal iliac vein branches. In addition, open surgery and, more recently, endovascular stenting of LRV obstruction have shown some promise in alleviating symptoms attributed to nutcracker syndrome. Conclusions: Diagnosis of PCS requires a careful history, physical examination, and noninvasive imaging. Several large case series have demonstrated the efficacy of embolotherapy in the reduction of pelvic pain; thus, it is the most favored treatment option for patients with PCS. For patients with outflow obstruction due to nutcracker syndrome, a limited number of studies have demonstrated remission of symptoms with stenting of the LRV as an alternative to open surgery.
Article
Results: A total of 109 patients with recurrent varicose veins in 172 legs were analyzed (mean age, 53.9 years; female-to-male ratio, 97:12). Patients were divided into four groups: group 1, all patients; group 2, female patients; group 3, female patients with children; and group 4, female patients with children who had not had hysterectomy. Pelvic venous reflux was found to be a major contributing cause of recurrent varicose veins in 44 of 172 legs (25.6%). This rose to 43 of 154 legs (27.9%) in group 2, 40 of 131 legs (30.5%) in group 3, and 37 of 111 legs (33.3%) in group 4.
Article
Pelvic congestion syndrome is associated with pelvic varicosities that result in chronic pelvic pain, especially in the setting of prolonged standing, coitus, menstruation, and pregnancy. Although the underlying pathophysiology of pelvic congestion syndrome is unclear, it probably results from a combination of dysfunctional venous valves, retrograde blood flow, venous hypertension, and dilatation. Asymptomatic women may also have pelvic varicosities, making pelvic congestion syndrome difficult to diagnose. This article explores the etiologies of pain, use of imaging techniques, and clinical management of pelvic congestion syndrome. Possible explanations for the spectrum of pain among women with pelvic varicosities are also discussed.