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The Clinical Utility of the Vulvar Pain Assessment Questionnaire

A Pilot Study

Dargie, Emma PhD, CPsych1; Pukall, Caroline F. PhD, CPsych1; Goetsch, Martha MD, MPH2; Stenson, Amy MD, MPH2; Leclair, Catherine MD2

Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease: October 2019 - Volume 23 - Issue 4 - p 272–278
doi: 10.1097/LGT.0000000000000488
Original Research Articles: Vulva and Vagina

Objective The aim of the study was to document treatment-seeking experiences of women with chronic vulvar pain, comfort communicating about pain, and test the clinical utility of the screening version of the Vulvar Pain Assessment Questionnaire, screening version (VPAQscreen).

Materials and Methods Patients scheduled for an appointment with the Program in Vulvar Health at Oregon Health and Science University were invited to complete the VPAQscreen and answer descriptive questions about previous treatment-seeking experiences and communication with health care providers. Clinicians provided provisional diagnoses based on VPAQscreen summaries, final diagnoses based on gynecological examination, and commented on alignment with clinical observations. Patients gave feedback on the accuracy and helpfulness of the VPAQscreen summary, characteristics of the questions asked, and whether their comfort communicating increased.

Results Participants reported previously seeing approximately 5 medical doctors and 2 other health care providers and perceived them as lacking knowledge of vulvar pain syndromes. Providers indicated that VPAQscreen summaries aligned with clinical presentations and suggested provisional diagnoses with more than 80% accuracy. Participants reported that VPAQscreen summaries were helpful and accurate in summarizing symptoms. Most reported that the number, range, and readability of VPAQscreen questions were good or excellent. More than half reported that completing the VPAQscreen increased comfort when speaking with their Oregon Health and Science University physician.

Conclusions Patients with vulvar pain often endure a lengthy process of consulting multiple clinicians before securing care. The VPAQscreen was more than 80% accurate in predicting diagnosis at this specialty clinic and was useful in assisting patients with expressing symptoms. The applicability of the VPAQscreen in general practice is unknown, although it shows promise.

1Department of Psychology, Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario, Canada

2Program in Vulvar Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR

Reprint requests to: Caroline F. Pukall, PhD, CPsych, Humphrey Hall, 62 Arch St, Kingston, ON, Canada K7L 3N6. E-mail:

The authors have declared they have no conflicts of interest.

This study was supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant (FRN#394719 to C.P.) and Canadian Institutes of Health Research Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement (to E.D.).

This study was approved by the Oregon Health and Science University Institutional Review Board (IRB Number 11836) and the Queen's University General Research Ethics Board (GPSYC-711-15).

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Copyright © 2019 by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology