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 causes pooling of blood and bulging in the vein in the pelvis.

“Pelvic congestion syndrome is fairly common,” said Ben Paxton, MD, Interventional Radiologist, Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott (VISP). “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.”

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 pelvic congestion syndrome.

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According to Dr. Ben Paxton, the best way to determine if someone has pelvic congestion syndrome is by having an MRI. An ultrasound is often done first and can also determine if there is pelvic congestion. 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 veins in the pelvis 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.”

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.