Author(s): Abramowitch SD, Feola A, Jallah Z, Moalli PA
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Abstract Pelvic floor disorders such as pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence affect a large number of women each year. The pelvic floor can be thought of as a biomechanical structure due to the complex interaction between the vagina and its supportive structures that are designed to withstand the downward descent of the pelvic organs in response to increases in abdominal pressure. Although previous work has highlighted the biochemical changes that are associated with specific risk factors (i.e. parity, menopause, and genetics), little work has been done to understand the biomechanical changes that occur within the vagina and its supportive structures to prevent the onset of these pelvic floor disorders. Human studies are often limited due to the challenges of obtaining large tissue samples and ethical concerns. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the use of animal models and their importance in understanding how different risk factors affect the biomechanical properties of the vagina and its supportive structures. In this review paper, we will discuss the different animal models that have been previously used to characterize the biomechanical properties of the vagina: including non-human primates, rodents, rabbits, and sheep. The anatomy and preliminary biomechanical findings are discussed along with the importance of considering experimental conditions, tissue anisotropy, and viscoelasticity when characterizing the biomechanical properties of vaginal tissue. Although there is not a lot of biomechanics research related to the vagina and pelvic floor, the future is exciting due to the significant potential for scientific findings that will improve our understanding of these conditions and hopefully lead to improvements in the prevention and treatment of pelvic disorders.
This article was published in Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol
and referenced in Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy