Provoked Vestibulodynia: Diagnosis, Self-Reported Pain, and Presentation During Gynaecological Examinations

Emma E Dargie, Susan M Chamberlain, Caroline F Pukall
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada: JOGC 2017, 39 (3): 145-151

OBJECTIVE: To explore factors associated with the diagnosis of provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) through (1) self-reported pain characteristics and (2) Friedrich's criteria (vestibular pain during sexual activity/gynaecological examination). We also identified cases in which incorrect diagnoses were assigned and explored group differences in gynaecological examination presentation and associations with self-reported pain.

METHODS: Data were extracted from nine studies conducted in our research laboratory. Information obtained during a telephone interview and a standardized gynaecological examination was compiled for 106 participants with vulvar pain and 106 pain-free control participants, matched for age, hormonal contraceptive use, and parity.

RESULTS: Cohen's kappa (0.78) indicated substantial agreement (87.3%) between the telephone interview group categorization and diagnosis after the gynaecological examination. A discriminant function analysis yielded one significant function: Friedrich's first two criteria correctly classified 84.2% of cases, accounting for 76.0% of group membership variance. Of note, those in the other genital pain group were most likely to have received an incorrect diagnosis following the telephone interview (P < 0.001). Paired-samples t tests showed that those with pain reported lower pain intensity during the gynaecological examination than during intercourse (P < 0.001) and that intercourse pain was not necessarily related to pain during the examination. However, many participants (72.8%) indicated that the pain elicited during the cotton swab test was similar to the pain they felt with intercourse.

CONCLUSION: These results support the use of a targeted clinical interview and the evaluation of vestibular pain during sexual activity and the gynaecological examination for diagnosing PVD. Caution should be exercised when a patient presents with genital pain symptoms other than those typically observed in PVD. Furthermore, the cotton swab test may underestimate the degree of pain regularly experienced.

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