Comparison between dynamic cystocolpoproctography and dynamic pelvic floor MRI: pros and cons: Which is the “functional” examination for anorectal and pelvic floor dysfunction?

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“Functional” imaging of anorectal and pelvic floor dysfunction has assumed an important role in the diagnosis and management of these disorders. Although defecography has been widely practiced for decades to evaluate the dynamics of rectal emptying, debate concerning its clinical relevance, how it should be done and interpreted continues. Due to the recognition of the association of defecatory disorders with pelvic organ prolapse in women, the need to evaluate the pelvic floor as a unit has arisen. To meet this need, defecography has been extended to include not only evaluation of defecation disorders but also the rest of the pelvic floor by opacifying the small bowel, vagina, and the urinary bladder. The term “dynamic cystocolpoproctography” (DCP) has been appropriately applied to this examination. Rectal emptying performed with DCP provides the maximum stress to the pelvic floor resulting in complete levator ani relaxation. In addition to diagnosing defecatory disorders, this method of examination demonstrates maximum pelvic organ descent and provides organ-specific quantification of organ prolapse, information that is only inferred by means of physical examination. It has been found to be of clinical value in patients with defecation disorders and the diagnosis of associated prolapse in other compartments that are frequently unrecognized by history taking and the limitations of physical examination. Pelvic floor anatomy is complex and DCP does not show the anatomical details pelvic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides. Technical advances allowing acquisition of dynamic rapid MRI sequences has been applied to pelvic floor imaging. Early reports have shown that pelvic MRI may be a useful tool in pre-operative planning of these disorders and may lead to a change in surgical therapy. Predictions of hypothetical increase cancer incidence and deaths in patients exposed to radiation, the emergence of pelvic floor MRI in addition to questions relating to the clinical significance of DCP findings have added to these controversies. This review analyses the pros and cons between DCP and dynamic pelvic floor MRI, addresses imaging and interpretive controversies, and their relevance to clinical management.

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Correspondence to Dean D. T. Maglinte.

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Maglinte, D.D.T., Hale, D.S. & Sandrasegaran, K. Comparison between dynamic cystocolpoproctography and dynamic pelvic floor MRI: pros and cons: Which is the “functional” examination for anorectal and pelvic floor dysfunction?. Abdom Imaging 38, 952–973 (2013).

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  • Dynamic pelvic floor MRI
  • Defecography
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Anorectal disorders
  • Pelvic organ prolapse staging