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Magnetic resonance imaging of the pelvic floor in patients with obstructed defaecation

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Background Evacuation proctography and measurements of anorectal physiology are frequently used to clarify the pathophysiology of obstructed defaecation. In some patients these tests are normal, despite convincing clinical evidence of defaecatory difficulty. The aim of this study was to determine whether magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could reveal pelvic floor abnormality in patients with obstructed defaecation.

Methods Eleven women with obstructed defaecation, in whom evacuation proctography and anorectal physiology were normal, were examined by MRI, using a fast gradient echo sequence. Measurements of pelvic visceral and muscular descent were taken at rest and during straining, and compared with those obtained from 13 asymptomatic volunteers.

Results Patients with obstructed defaecation had significantly greater pelvic visceral descent (P<0·05), levator muscle descent (P=0·04), levator plate angle change (P=0·003) and increase in the area of the pelvic floor hiatus (P=0·0002) than asymptomatic volunteers.

Conclusion MRI demonstrated marked pelvic visceral and levator muscle descent in women with obstructed defaecation, despite normal evacuation proctography and anorectal physiology. MRI should be considered if these examinations have been normal.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Academic Department of Radiology, St Bartholomew's Hospital 2: Intestinal Imaging Department 3: Department of Surgery 4: Department of Physiology, St Mark's Hospital, London, UK

Publication date: November 1, 1997

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