JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

March 13, 1998
MEDIA CONTACT: Marc Kusinitz
PHONE: (410) 955-8665
E-MAIL: mkusinit@welchlink.welch.jhu.edu

Non-Surgical Treatment Ends Pelvic Pain In Women

Pelvic congestive syndrome, a painful disorder in women, which often goes undiagnosed and untreated, can usually be cured by plugging blood vessels in the ovaries, according to a study by a Johns Hopkins radiologist.

The treatment offers hope to the estimated 15 percent of women 20 to 40 years old with the condition, which is caused by varicose veins in the ovaries, says Anthony Venbrux, M.D., director of interventional radiology. The bad veins cause blood to pool in the ovaries and pelvis, leading to sometimes crippling pain during and after sexual intercourse, especially before or during menstruation.

A minimally invasive treatment that shuts down veins and eliminates blood pooling, the technique relieved pain in 9 of 11 women treated at Hopkins and Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii.

Venbrux reported results of this study at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology, Tuesday, March 3.

"Most of the women I see are at the end of their rope," says Venbrux. "They've become dependent on narcotics to ease the pain, and had multiple surgeries and psychiatric treatment. And their sex lives are significantly disrupted."

The problem is made worse in part because many doctors are unfamiliar with the condition and fail to diagnose it, according to Venbrux, and a fourth of those undiagnosed women undergo unneeded hysterectomy--removal of the uterus--which rarely solves the problem.

To detect pelvic congestion syndrome, radiologists first insert a catheter into a vein in the neck, groin or arm and guide it to the pelvis. A fluid is injected to make the veins in the pelvis visible on X-ray. If the X-ray shows very tightly coiled veins, tiny coils or glue-like liquids are introduced through the catheter, plugging the veins. The procedure, which takes less than two hours, requires light anesthesia and generally does not require hospitalization, says Venbrux.

Other authors of the paper include Anthony Eclavea, Paul R. Cordts and James Buckley (Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii).

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