Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Imaging: New Guidelines Provide Recommendations

Nancy A. Melville

September 23, 2021

New consensus guidelines from a multispecialty working group of the Pelvic Floor Disorders Consortium (PFDC) clear up inconsistencies in the use of magnetic resonance defecography (MRD), and provide universal recommendations on MRD technique, interpretation, reporting, and other factors.

"The consensus language used to describe pelvic floor disorders is critical, so as to allow the various experts who treat these patients [to] communicate and collaborate effectively with each other," co-author Liliana Bordeianou, MD, MPH, an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and chair of the Massachusetts General Hospital Colorectal and Pelvic Floor Centers, told Medscape Medical News.

"These diseases do not choose an arbitrary side in the pelvis," she noted. "Instead, these diseases affect the entire pelvis and require a multidisciplinary and collaborative solution."

MRD is a key component in that solution, providing dynamic evaluation of pelvic floor function and visualization of the complex interaction in pelvic compartments among patients with defecatory pelvic floor disorders, such as vaginal or uterine prolapse, constipation, incontinence, or other pelvic floor dysfunctions.

However, a key shortcoming has been a lack of consistency in nomenclature and the reporting of MRD findings among institutions and subspecialties.

Clinicians may wind up using different definitions for the same condition and different thresholds for grading severity, resulting in inconsistent communication not only between clinicians across institutions, but even within the same institution, the report notes.

To address the situation, radiologists with the Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Disease Focused Panel of the Society of Abdominal Radiology (SAR) published recommendations on MRD protocol and technique in April.

However, even with that guidance, there has been significant variability in the interpretation and utilization of MRD findings among specialties outside of radiology.

The new report was therefore developed to include input from the broad variety of specialists involved in the treatment of patients with pelvic floor disorders, including colorectal surgeons, urogynecologists, urologists, gynecologists, gastroenterologists, radiologists, physiotherapists, and other advanced care practitioners.

"The goal of this effort was to create a universal set of recommendations and language for MRD technique, interpretation, and reporting that can be utilized and carry the same significance across disciplines," write the authors of the report, published this week in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

One key area addressed in the report is a recommendation that MRD can be performed in either the upright or supine position, which has been a topic of inconsistency, said Brooke Gurland, MD, medical director of the Pelvic Health Center at Stanford University, Stanford, California, a co-author on the consensus statement.

"Supine versus upright position was a source of debate, but ultimately there was a consensus that supine position was acceptable," she told Medscape Medical News.

Regarding positioning, the recommendations conclude that "given the variable results from different studies, consortium members agreed that it is acceptable to perform MRD in the supine position when upright MRD is not available."

"Importantly, consortium experts stressed that it is very important that this imaging be performed after proper patient education on the purpose of the examination," they note.

Other recommendations delve into contrast medium considerations, such as the recommendation that MRD does not require the routine use of vaginal contrast medium for adequate imaging of pathology.

And guidance on the technique and grading of relevant pathology include a recommendation to use the pubococcygeal line (PCL) as a point of reference to quantify the prolapse of organs in all compartments of the pelvic floor.

"There is an increasing appreciation that most patients with pelvic organ prolapse experience dual or even triple compartment pathology, making it important to describe the observations in all three compartments to ensure the mobilization of the appropriate team of experts to treat the patient," the authors note.

The consensus report features an interpretative template providing synopses of the recommendations, which can be adjusted and modified according to additional radiologic information, as well as individualized patient information or clinician preferences.

However, "the suggested verbiage and steps should be advocated as the minimum requirements when performing and interpreting MRD in patients with evacuation disorders of the pelvic floor," the authors note.

Gurland added that, in addition to providing benefits in the present utilization of MRD, the clearer guidelines should help advance its use to improve patient care in the future.

"Standardizing imaging techniques, reporting, and language is critical to improving our understanding and then developing therapies for pelvic floor disorders," she said.

"In the future, correlating MRD with surgical outcomes and identifying modifiable risk factors will improve patient care."

In addition to being published in the AJR, the report was published concurrently in the journals Diseases of the Colon & Rectum, International Urogynecology Journal, and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery.

The authors of the guidelines have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

AJR Am J of Roentgenol. Published online September 20, 2021. Full text

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