Pelvic floor

Pelvic floor

The pelvic floor or pelvic/urogential diaphragm is composed of muscle fibers of the levator ani, the coccygeus, and associated connective tissue which span the area underneath the pelvis. The pelvic diaphragm is a muscular partition formed by the levatores ani and coccygei, with which may be included the parietal pelvic fascia on their upper and lower aspects. The pelvic floor separates the pelvic cavity above from the perineal region (including perineum) below.

The right and left levator ani lie almost horizontally in the floor of the pelvis, separated by a narrow gap that transmits the urethra, vagina, and anal canal. The levator ani is usually considered in three parts: pubococcygeus, puborectalis, and iliococcygeus. The pubococcygeus, the main part of the levator, runs backward from the body of the pubis toward the coccyx and may be damaged during parturition. Some fibers are inserted into the prostate, urethra, and vagina. The right and left puborectalis unite behind the anorectal junction to form a muscular sling . Some regard them as a part of the sphincter ani externus. The iliococcygeus, the most posterior part of the levator ani, is often poorly developed.

The coccygeus, situated behind the levator ani and frequently tendinous as much as muscular, extends from the ischial spine to the lateral margin of the sacrum and coccyx.

The pelvic cavity of the true pelvis has the pelvic floor as its inferior border (and the pelvic brim as its superior border.) The perineum has the pelvic floor as its superior border.

Some sources do not consider "pelvic floor" and "pelvic diaphragm" to be identical, with the "diaphragm" consisting of only the levator ani and coccygeus, while the "floor" also includes the perineal membrane and deep perineal pouch. However, other sources include the fascia as part of the diaphragm. In practice, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Inferiorly, the pelvic floor extends into the anal triangle.

Function

It is important in providing support for pelvic viscera (organs), e.g. the bladder, intestines, the uterus (in females), and in maintenance of continence as part of the urinary and anal sphincters.

Clinical significance

In women, the levator muscles or their supplying nerves can be damaged in pregnancy or childbirth. This occurs more commonly after a normal vaginal delivery, but can also occur following a c-section. There is some evidence that these muscles may also be damaged during a hysterectomy. Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, may improve the tone and function of the pelvic floor muscles, which is of particular benefit for women (and less commonly men) who experience urinary incontinence. In addition to preventing or diminishing leakage it may improve vaginal muscle tone and consequent sexual sensation.

Damage to the pelvic floor not only contributes to urinary incontinence but can lead to pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs in women when pelvic organs (e.g. the vagina, bladder, rectum, or uterus) protrude into or outside of the vagina. The causes of pelvic organ prolapse are not unlike those that also contribute to urinary incontinence. These include inappropriate (asymmetrical, excessive, insufficient) muscle tone and asymmetries caused by trauma to the pelvis. Age, childbirth, family history, and hormonal status all contribute to the development of pelvic organ prolapse. The vagina is suspended by attachments to the perineum, pelvic side wall and sacrum via attachments that include collagen, elastin, and smooth muscle. Repair of lost vaginal support may involve surgery.

Disorders of the posterior pelvic floor include rectal prolapse, rectocele, perineal hernia, and a number of functional disorders including anismus. Constipation due to any of these disorders is called "functional constipation" and is identifiable by clinical diagnostic criteria.

Perineology or pelviperineology is a speciality dealing with the functional troubles of the three axis (urological, gynaecological and coloproctological) of the pelvic floor.

See also

Additional images

References

External links

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