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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Non-surgical interventions for the management of chronic pelvic pain

Ying C Cheong, Grisham Smotra, Amanda C de C Williams
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014 March 5, (3): CD008797
24595586

BACKGROUND: Chronic pelvic pain is a common and debilitating condition; its aetiology is multifactorial, involving social, psychological and biological factors. The management of chronic pelvic pain is challenging, as despite interventions involving surgery, many women remain in pain without a firm gynaecological diagnosis.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness and safety of non-surgical interventions for women with chronic pelvic pain.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Specialised Register. We also searched (from inception to 5 February 2014) AMED, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL and LILACS. We handsearched sources such as citation lists, trial registers and conference proceedings.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on non-surgical management of chronic pelvic pain were eligible for inclusion. We included studies of women with a diagnosis of pelvic congestion syndrome or adhesions but excluded those with pain known to be caused by endometriosis, primary dysmenorrhoea (period pain), active chronic pelvic inflammatory disease or irritable bowel syndrome. We considered studies of any non-surgical intervention, including lifestyle, physical, medical and psychological treatments.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Study selection, quality assessment and data extraction were performed independently by two review authors. Meta-analysis was performed using the Peto odds ratio (Peto OR) for dichotomous outcomes and the mean difference (MD) for continuous outcomes, with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). The primary outcome measure was pain relief, and secondary outcome measures were psychological outcomes, quality of life, requirement for analgesia and adverse effects. The quality of the evidence was assessed by using GRADE methods.

MAIN RESULTS: Twenty-one RCTs were identified that involved non-surgical management of chronic pelvic pain: 13 trials were included in the review, and eight were excluded. The studies included a total of 750 women-406 women in the intervention groups and 344 in the control groups. Included studies had high attrition rates, and investigators often did not blind adequately or did not clearly describe randomisation procedures. Medical treatment versus placebo Progestogen (medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA)) was more effective than placebo at the end of treatment in terms of the number of women achieving a greater than 50% reduction in visual analogue scale (VAS) pain score immediately after treatment (Peto OR 3.00, 95% CI 1.70 to 5.31, two studies, n = 204, I(2) = 22%, moderate-quality evidence). Evidence of benefit was maintained up to nine months after treatment (Peto OR 2.09, 95% CI 1.18 to 3.71, two studies, n = 204, I(2) = 0%, moderate-quality evidence). Women treated with progestogen reported more adverse effects (e.g. weight gain, bloatedness) than those given placebo (high-quality evidence). The estimated effect of lofexidine on pain outcomes when compared with placebo was compatible with benefit and harm (Peto OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.11 to 1.61, one study, 39 women, low-quality evidence). Women in the lofexidine group reported more adverse effects (including drowsiness and dry mouth) than women given placebo (moderate-quality evidence). Head-to-head comparisons of medical treatments Head-to-head comparisons showed that women taking goserelin had greater improvement in pelvic pain score (MD 3, 95% CI 2.08 to 3.92, one study, n = 47, moderate-quality evidence) at one year than those taking progestogen. Women taking gabapentin had a lower VAS pain score than those taking amytriptyline (MD -1.50, 95% CI -2.06 to -0.94, n = 40, low-quality evidence). Study authors reported that no statistically significant difference was observed in the rate of adverse effects among women taking gabapentin compared with women given amytriptyline. The study comparing goserelin versus progestogen did not report on adverse effects. Psychological treatment Women who underwent reassurance ultrasound scans and received counselling were more likely to report improved pain than those treated with a standard 'wait and see' policy (Peto OR 6.77, 95% CI 2.83 to 16.19, n = 90, low-quality evidence). Significantly more women who had writing therapy as a disclosure reported improvement in pain than those in the non-disclosure group (Peto OR 4.47, 95% CI 1.41 to 14.13, n = 48, very low-quality evidence). No difference between groups in pain outcomes was noted when other psychological therapies were compared with standard care or placebo (quality of evidence ranged from very low to low). Studies did not report on adverse effects. Complementary therapy Distension of painful pelvic structures was more effective for pain when compared with counselling (MD 35.8, 95% CI 23.08 to 48.52 on a zero to 100 scale, one study, n = 48, moderate-quality evidence). No difference in pain levels was observed when magnetic therapy was compared with use of a control magnet (very low-quality evidence). Studies did not report on adverse effects.The results of studies examining psychological and complementary therapies could not be combined to yield meaningful results.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Evidence of moderate quality supports progestogen as an option for chronic pelvic pain, with efficacy reported during treatment. In practice, this option may be most acceptable among women unconcerned about progestogenic adverse effects (e.g. weight gain, bloatedness-the most common adverse effects). Although some evidence suggests possible benefit of goserelin when compared with progestogen, gabapentin as compared with amytriptyline, ultrasound versus 'wait and see' and writing therapy versus non-disclosure, the quality of evidence is generally low, and evidence is drawn from single studies.Given the prevalence and healthcare costs associated with chronic pelvic pain in women, RCTs of other medical, lifestyle and psychological interventions are urgently required.

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