Treating Pelvic Congestion Syndrome

Treating Pelvic Congestion Syndrome

According to John Hopkins Medicine, an estimate of one-third of all women will experience chronic pelvic pain during their lifetime. This condition is associated with many comorbidities, including pelvic congestion syndrome (PCS).

The pain from pelvic congestion occurs when blood accumulates in the veins of your pelvis, which has dilated and become congested (commonly known as pelvic varicose veins). Sometimes, the pain can be debilitating.

Most women suffering from PCS have had multiple pregnancies and are typically between 20-45 years of age. 

In this article, Dr. Ben Paxton, Interventional Radiologist of Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott (VISP), discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment for pelvic congestion syndrome. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS)?

Pelvic congestion syndrome is a painful condition resulting from enlarged varicose veins in the pelvis. 

As with varicose veins in the legs, the valves in the veins that return blood to the heart become weak and do not close properly. This scenario causes the pooling of blood and bulging in the vein in the pelvis.

“Pelvic congestion syndrome is fairly common,” said Ben Paxton, MD. “It can be difficult to determine exact numbers because chronic pelvic pain is common, too. It affects approximately 15 percent of women between the ages of 15 to 50. So, pelvic congestion syndrome may account for a large proportion of these cases.”

How Is Pelvic Congestion Diagnosed?

pregnant woman at risk of pelvic congestion syndrome

Pain from pelvic congestion syndrome is usually described as dull. It occurs when a woman stands for long periods and tends to worsen as the day goes on. Other symptoms are painful menstrual cycles or bulging veins on the buttocks, tops of the thighs, or other areas.

Although approximately 30 percent of women experience chronic pelvic pain, those who have given birth are at higher risk for developing PCS.

During pregnancy, the volume of blood and estrogen increases, and might weaken the walls of the blood vessels.

According to Dr. Paxton, the best way to determine if someone has PCS is by having magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An ultrasound is often done first to assess blood flow and determine if there is congestion in the pelvis. 

[Read: Varicose Veins & Pregnancy: 7 Simple Steps To Reduce Your Risk]

How Is Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Treated? 

Once it is clear that a woman has pelvic congestion syndrome, an interventional radiologist can perform an ovarian vein embolization. This is a minimally invasive procedure that can relieve pain and other symptoms.

“It is an outpatient procedure that involves placing a small catheter into the enlarged pelvic veins through a tiny incision using x-ray guidance,” Dr. Paxton explained.

“Contrast is also introduced into the vein so that we can see exactly where to inject an embolic agent. The embolic agent is typically a small metal coil or plug, which helps to clot off the veins and make them close up. Blood then re-routes to healthier veins instead of using the faulty ones. Patients can return home the same day without any significant recovery time needed.”

Seek Pelvic Congestion Syndrome Treatment Immediately

The exact causes of PCS remain unclear. Many women don’t have symptoms but have enlarged veins. The risk of developing pelvic congestion syndrome may arise during pregnancy due to the increased blood flow and expansion of veins.

PCS is a complex medical condition that needs a multidisciplinary team approach to diagnose and treat. If you have symptoms of pelvic congestion syndrome or have chronic pelvic pain, please contact your gynecologist or primary care provider. 

If you have questions about pelvic congestion syndrome, contact Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott (VISP) at (928) 771-8477.