Pelvic nerve injury negatively impacts female genital blood flow and induces vaginal fibrosis - Implications for human nerve-sparing radical hysterectomy

F. Castiglione, A. Bergamini, M. Albersen, J. L. Hannan, T. J. Bivalacqua, A. Bettiga, F. Benigni, A. Salonia, F. Montorsi, P. Hedlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective This study sought to develop a novel animal model to study the impact of nerve-sparing radical hysterectomy (NSRH) on female genital blood flow. Design In vivo animal study. Population Thirty Sprague-Dawley female rats. Materials and methods Female rats underwent either unilateral pelvic nerve (PN) crush (PNC; n = 9), or crush of both the PNs and all efferent nerves in the pelvic plexus ('clock-nerve crush', CNC; n = 9). Under anaesthesia, we electrically stimulated the crushed PN at 3 and 10 days after crush while monitoring blood pressure and recording clitoral and vaginal blood flows by laser Doppler. Uninjured PNs were stimulated as an internal control. Twelve additional rats were assigned either to bilateral PNC or sham surgery, and genital tissues were processed 10 days after injury for in vitro analysis. Main outcome measures Genital blood flow, nNOS, eNOS, collagen I-III. Results Stimulation of the crushed PN in both groups subjected to PNC and CNC induced significantly lower peak genital blood flow at 3 and 10 days (P < 0.05) compared to stimulation of the non-crushed control PN. The immunofluorescence and Western blot analyses revealed that all injured rats exhibited more vaginal collagen III and collagen I than rats did that ad undergone sham surgeries (P < 0.05). PCN reduced nNOS expression in both clitoral and vaginal tissue. Conclusions Based on our study it may be hypothesised that NSRH might cause reductions of genital blood flow and vaginal fibrosis due to neurapraxia of the pelvic nerve and reductions of nNOS nerve fibres in clitoral and distal vaginal tissue. Tweetable Abstract Pelvic nerve neurapraxia during nerve-sparing radical hysterectomy could lead to sexual arousal dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1457-1465
Number of pages9
JournalBJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015



  • Blood flow
  • clitoris
  • female sexual dysfunction
  • laser Doppler
  • neurapraxia
  • pelvic nerve injury
  • radical hysterectomy
  • vagina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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