An estimated one-third of all women will experience some form of pelvic pain in their lives. Although it is one of the most common causes of pain in women, it also is one of the most difficult to diagnose and manage. As many as three out of five women who experience pelvic pain never locate the cause of their affliction.
"Typically, women who experience pelvic pain seek help from gynecologists, urologists or family practitioners who may not be able to pinpoint the cause," said Faraz Khan, MD, interventional radiologist, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center - Imaging Center.
"Adding to this difficulty is that many women are often embarrassed about pain in the pelvic area - below their bellybutton and between their hips - and wait until the pain is unbearable before seeking help," Dr. Khan added. "When the pain persists more than six months, it is defined as chronic pelvic pain and should be diagnosed and treated immediately."
As many as one out of five women experience chronic pelvic pain. Chronic pelvic pain differs from acute pain, which may indicate a specific injury. With chronic pelvic pain, the initial injury or problem may have disappeared but the pain continues because of changes in the nervous system, tissues or muscles.
Some of the signs and symptoms of chronic pelvic pain include:
"Although there are many tests that can be performed to determine the cause of a patient's pain, including pelvic exam, cultures, pelvic ultrasound or laparoscopy, an MRI of the female pelvis is one of the most accurate methods to pinpoint the cause of the pain," added Dr. Khan.
For many women, an MRI is more comfortable than many of the alternatives. Additionally, an MRI creates a three-dimensional image of the pelvic anatomy that enables a physician to accurately see pelvic abnormalities. Using this vital information, the physician can uncover the exact source of the problem and quickly initiate the appropriate treatment regimen.
Some of the causes of chronic pelvic pain include:
A woman who experiences chronic pelvic pain that has gone undiagnosed should consider a pelvic MRI. A physician's order is required to schedule an MRI at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center - Imaging Center.
For a physician referral, contact the Memorial Hermann Physician Referral line at (281) 364-5959.