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Transabdominal ultrasound to assess pelvic floor muscle performance during abdominal curl in exercising women


Introduction and hypothesis

The aim of this study was to assess pelvic floor muscle (PFM) function using transabdominal ultrasound (TAUS) in women attending group exercise classes. Specific aims were to: (1) identify the ability to perform a correct elevating PFM contraction and (2) assess bladder-base movement during an abdominal curl exercise.


Ninety women participating in group exercise were recruited to complete a survey and TAUS assessment performed by two qualified Continence and Women’s Health physiotherapists with clinical experience in ultrasound scanning. The assessment comprised three attempts of a PFM contraction and an abdominal curl exercise in crook lying. Bladder-base displacement was measured to determine correct or incorrect activation patterns.


Twenty-five percent (n = 23) of women were unable to demonstrate an elevating PFM contraction, and all women displayed bladder-base depression on abdominal curl (range 0.33–31.2 mm). Parous women displayed, on average, significantly more bladder-base depression than did nulliparous women [15.5 (7.3) mm vs 11.4 (5.8) mm, p < 0.009). Sixty percent (n = 54) reported stress urinary incontinence (SUI). There was no association between SUI and the inability to perform an elevating PFM contraction (p = 0.278) or the amount of bladder-base depression with abdominal curl [14.1 (7.6) mm SUI vs 14.2 (6.7) mm non-SUI].


TAUS identified that 25 % of women who participated in group exercise were unable to perform a correctly elevating PFM contraction, and all depressed the bladder-base on abdominal curl. Therefore, exercising women may be at risk of PFM dysfunction when performing abdominal curl activities.

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Correspondence to Chloe Serrao.

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Barton, A., Serrao, C., Thompson, J. et al. Transabdominal ultrasound to assess pelvic floor muscle performance during abdominal curl in exercising women. Int Urogynecol J 26, 1789–1795 (2015).

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