ORLANDO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Ultrasound appears to be an effective tool in diagnosing occult hernia in women with unexplained chronic pelvic pain, according to a retrospective cohort study of 96 women.

“As gynecologists, we are likely to see those patients with chronic pelvic pain in our clinic before other specialists due to the location of their pain,” said Joelle Aoun, MD , an ob.gyn. in the division of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. “So it’s very important to recognize women with a high clinical suspicion for occult hernia and evaluate them in order to prevent a delayed diagnosis and prolonged suffering.”

Hernias can be more difficult to diagnose in women than in men, Dr. Aoun said at the meeting sponsored by AAGL, and the literature offers conflicting findings since most hernia studies are conducted in men or with mixed gender cohorts.

Dr. Aoun and her coinvestigators conducted a retrospective cohort study from January 2005 to July 2016, identifying 96 women with chronic pelvic pain and focal inguinal tenderness. Protruding fat or visceral tissue on physical exam or observed visually led clinicians to suspect a hernia. A single sonographer performed the musculoskeletal ultrasound.

Investigators diagnosed an occult hernia in more than half of the patients (51 women) based on the physical exam and ultrasound findings. Diagnoses included inguinal, femoral, Spigelian, and umbilical hernias.

All women with an ultrasound-diagnosed hernia were referred to general surgery. A majority – 69% of women – underwent surgical exploration. The remaining 31% of women who declined tended to have lower pain scores, Dr. Aoun said. Surgeons confirmed the hernia diagnosis in 97% of the women, or 34 out of the 35 women who had consented to surgery.

The group with a hernia was older and more likely to have arthritis, but otherwise did not differ significantly from the nonhernia cohort.

“We believe musculoskeletal ultrasound is valuable as an initial imaging modality due to its high predictive value, low cost, and noninvasiveness,” Dr. Aoun said.

Chronic pelvic pain is not uncommon, affecting approximately 15% of women during their reproductive years often with significant impacts on quality of life, workplace productivity, and health care utilization, Dr. Aoun said. This presentation also accounts for about 10% outpatient gynecology consultations and approximately 40% of laparoscopies in the United States, she added.

Dr. Aoun and her colleagues are planning a subsequent study of all the women who opted not to undergo surgery to determine their follow-up pain profiles based on chart review and phone interviews.

Dr. Aoun reported having no relevant financial disclosures.


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