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What is Colpocleisis?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Colpocleisis is a surgical procedure in which the opening of the vagina, known as the lumen, is closed. This procedure is used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and is primarily considered to be a treatment option among women who are older and no longer interested in being sexually active. This surgery is performed by a gynecological surgeon and it may require a brief hospital stay, typically a single night, for the purpose of monitoring the patient and confirming that the procedure was successful.

In pelvic organ prolapse, the support structure which keeps the pelvic organs in place fails, causing them to sag. This can lead to problems such as incontinence, fistula, pain, discomfort during sex, and infection. The conventional treatment for prolapse is reconstruction, in which a surgeon rebuilds the connections used to keep the pelvic organs stable so that they will stay in place. However, reconstruction is an invasive surgery which is long and can be dangerous and for some patients colpocleisis may be a better choice.

In a colpocleisis procedure, the patient is given local anesthesia along with medications which are designed to reduce stress and keep the patient comfortable. The procedure usually takes under two hours, and involves sewing the opening of the vagina shut to provide more structural support to the pelvic organs so that they cannot prolapse. The surgeon may also perform a sling procedure to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence, providing more support to the bladder so that the vagina will not drag on it and cause incontinence.

There are some risks to this procedure, as with any surgical procedure, including infection. The patient may also be at risk for urinary incontinence if a sling is not placed to support the bladder. In addition, it can be difficult to treat uterine bleeding because of the closure of the vaginal opening. A small opening is left in place so that blood and mucus draining from the uterus can be identified, but the option of a quick physical examination to determine the cause is not possible when the vagina has been closed.

This procedure also comes with some psychological risks which must be assessed before moving forward with the procedure. Patients who have undergone a colpocleisis cannot have penetrative intercourse. For some patients this may be perfectly acceptable and not a cause for concern, but others may worry about sexual intimacy and their relationships with their partners. Patients should weigh this risk carefully before consenting to the colpocleisis procedure.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1004384 — On Jan 27, 2021

You said: "the opening of the vagina, known as the lumen". No, the lumen is the pathway or "tube" starting in the vagina and branching into the two fallopian tubes.

The opening of the vagina is known as the introitus or the gential hiatus, and an associated term is the hymenal ring.

Thanks for a good article, otherwise.

By anon1004383 — On Jan 27, 2021

The stock photos are all of young-ish women. Typically, this procedure is performed on women who no longer want to be able to have penetrative intercourse. Typical ages would be 70 or above. Pictures should reflect that.

Thank you for not saying this procedure is for women "who no longer want to have sex". There's a lot you can do sexually that doesn't require penis in vagina.

By aviva — On Jun 30, 2011

I was absolutely stunned when I read this article. Of all the things we women have to endure every month, this is all we have to look forward to is a prolapsed vagina?

Now I know the real reason our doctors and nurses stress the importance of kegal exercises. I was constantly reminded of them after the birth of my second child.

I was thirty-six then and now just ten years later I'm already experiencing urinary incontinence. Ugh!

By ellafarris — On Jun 28, 2011

@Sierra02 - It's good to hear that your grandmother, or your husband's grandmother rather, is doing well. Recovery after a lefort colpocleisis operation is fairly brief and the success rates are fairly high.

In regards to your question concerning annual pelvic exams after surgery, they generally should no longer be a necessity at this stage in her life.

Contrary to what most women believe, after years of enduring the humbling annual procedure we can relax and actually enjoy our freedom at around say sixty-five years of age.

By Sierra02 — On Jun 26, 2011

Thank you for sharing this article. I'm glad to know there is an actual name for this surgery. My husbands grandmother had a prolapse uterus and had this operation about a year ago after complaining that her insides were falling out.

I was really surprised to learn that the condition even exists. But I guess it's only natural since gravity pulls on everything else. Just because we can't see it doesn't mean it's not happening, right?

His grandmother is over eighty-five years old and is in excellent shape and doing very well since the colpocleisis operation.

I'm sure intercourse was discussed with her husband and apparently that is no longer an issue in their marriage but my question is this. How on Earth can her gynecologist perform her annual pelvic exams now?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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