OBJECTIVE: Compare levator ani cross-sectional area as a function of prolapse and muscle defect status.
METHODS: Thirty women with prolapse and 30 women with normal pelvic support were selected from an ongoing case-control study of prolapse. For each of the two groups, 10 women were selected from three categories of levator defect severity: none, minor, and major identified on supine magnetic resonance scans. Using those scans, three-dimensional (3D) models of the levator ani muscles were made using a modeling program (3D Slicer), and cross-sections of the pubic portion were calculated perpendicular to the muscle fiber direction using another program, I-DEAS. An analysis of variance was performed.
RESULTS: The ventral component of the levator muscle of women with major defects had a 36% smaller cross-sectional area, and women with minor defects had a 29% smaller cross-sectional area compared with the women with no defects (P<.001). In the dorsal component, there were significant differences in cross-sectional area according to defect status (P=.03); women with major levator defects had the largest cross-sectional area compared with the other defect groups. For each defect severity category (none, minor, major), there were no significant differences in cross-sectional area between women with and those without prolapse.
CONCLUSION: Women with visible levator ani defects on magnetic resonance imaging had significantly smaller cross-sectional areas in the ventral component of the pubic portion of the muscle compared with women with intact muscles. Women with major levator ani defects had larger cross-sectional areas in the dorsal component than women with minor or no defects.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II-2