Pelvic congestion syndrome arises from enlarged varicose veins in the pelvis. The condition is similar to varicose veins in the legs. In both, the valves that help blood return to the heart against gravity do not close properly. As a result, blood flows backwards and pools in the veins, which enlarge over time, causing pressure and pain.
As much as 15 percent of women ages 20 to 50 have varicose veins in the pelvis, though not all experience symptoms.
Pelvic congestion syndrome is characterized by dull and aching chronic pelvic pain that is typically worse with prolonged standing or sitting. Some patients may have visible bulging varicose veins in the buttocks or vulva.
The pain often increases following intercourse and during menstrual periods and pregnancy.
Pelvic congestion syndrome is an under-appreciated source of chronic pelvic pain. Many patients will have undergone CT or MRI studies to look at other sources of pelvic pain, and the dilated veins may be present on these studies. In other patients with classic symptoms, the diagnosis can be made by injecting contrast material into the affected veins.
A Pelvic Embolization procedure can significantly improve symptoms. This minimally invasive procedure is performed by an Interventional Radiologist on an outpatient basis, with mild sedation. Using image guidance, the Interventional Radiologist places a catheter into the abnormal veins and permanently closes them, allowing blood to flow via normal venous channels.
Patients are discharged either the same day or the following morning. They may resume normal activities that do not involve heavy lifting, straining, or exertion. These activities can be resumed 4 weeks following the procedure.
To schedule a consultation with an interventional radiologist please call 704.358.IRMD (4763).