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Guide to Treatment and Recovery for Vulvodynia Surgery: An Overview

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10 May, 2023
Understanding Surgical Interventions for Vulvodynia Relief
Vulvodynia Surgery

Vulvar pain is a chronic and often long-lasting disorder that specifically affects the vulvar vestibule, which is the area surrounding the vaginal opening. It can cause significant discomfort, negatively impacting the quality of life for those who experience it, including sexual dysfunction. In many cases, the cause of vulvar pain is unknown, making it difficult to find effective treatment options.

What is Vulvodynia?


Vulvodynia is a chronic pain disorder that affects the vulvar region, which includes the vulvar vestibule, labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening. Women with vulvodynia experience persistent pain, burning, itching, or irritation without an identifiable cause. The classification of vulvodynia includes two main types: generalized vulvodynia, which is pain throughout the entire vulvar region, and Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome (VVS), which is localized pain at the entrance of the vagina (vulvar vestibule).


VVS, also known as severe vulvar vestibulitis, can be triggered by touch, pressure, or sexual activity. Treatment of vulvodynia and treatment of vulvar vestibulitis can involve a variety of approaches, including medication, physical therapy, and surgery. One surgical option is a vulvar vestibulectomy, which involves the removal of the affected tissue in the vulvar vestibule. This procedure can provide significant relief for women with severe VVS.


The vulvar vestibule contains vestibular glands, which are responsible for producing lubrication during sexual activity. Dysfunction of these glands can contribute to vulvar pain syndrome, a type of pelvic pain that affects the vulvar region. Treatment for vulvar pain syndrome can also involve a combination of medications, physical therapy, and surgery.


In summary, vulvodynia is a chronic pain disorder that affects the vulvar region, including the vulvar vestibule. VVS is a type of vulvodynia characterized by pain at the entrance of the vagina. Treatment of severe VVS may involve a vulvar vestibulectomy, while other types of vulvar pain may require a combination of approaches. Dysfunction of the vestibular glands can contribute to vulvar pain syndrome and other types of pelvic pain.

Symptoms of Vulvodynia

Symptoms of Vulvodynia

Vulvodynia is a condition that can cause significant pain and discomfort for women. The diagnosis is typically based on criteria for vulvar vestibulitis, which includes the presence of pain or tenderness in the vulvar vestibule, as well as other associated symptoms.


The treatment of vulvar vestibulitis typically involves a combination of approaches, including medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and psychological support. Women with vulvar vestibulitis may benefit from topical or oral medications to manage pain, nerve blocks targeted to the pudendal nerve, pelvic floor physical therapy to reduce pain and improve function, and biofeedback techniques to alleviate pain.


The symptoms of vulvodynia can vary, but may include burning, stinging, or sharp pain in the vulva, pain with sexual activity, and pelvic pain. It is important for women with vulvar vestibulitis to seek medical attention if they experience any of these symptoms, as early treatment can improve treatment outcomes.

Treatment Options for Vulvodynia


Treatment of vulvodynia typically involves a combination of approaches, including medications, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and psychological support. Common treatments include:

  • Topical Medications: Numbing creams or gels can provide temporary relief from pain.

  • Oral Medications: Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and anti-inflammatory drugs may help manage pain.

  • Nerve blocks: They can be an effective treatment option for some people with vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS). A nerve block involves injecting medication into a specific nerve or nerve group to numb the area and reduce pain. In the case of VVS, the nerve block is usually targeted to the pudendal nerve, which supplies sensation to the vulva and perineum.

  • Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy: This therapy targets the pelvic floor muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues around the pelvic region to reduce pain and improve function.

  • Biofeedback: A technique used to help women with vulvar vestibulitis gain control over their bodily functions, such as muscle tension, to alleviate pain. Electromyographic biofeedback is a technique that uses electrodes to measure muscle activity and provides visual or auditory feedback to help women with vulvar vestibulitis learn to control their muscle tension. It has been used as a treatment option for pelvic floor muscle dysfunction, which is a common issue in women with vulvodynia.

  • Tricyclic antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants are a class of medications that are often used to treat chronic pain conditions, including vulvodynia. The exact mechanism by which TCAs help to alleviate vulvodynia symptoms is not completely understood, but it is thought to be related to their ability to increase levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, in the brain and nervous system. These neurotransmitters are involved in the regulation of pain perception, mood, and other bodily functions. Studies have shown that TCAs can be effective in reducing vulvodynia pain and improving the quality of life in many patients.

  • Counseling and Support Groups: Supportive therapy can help patients cope with the emotional impact of chronic pain.

When do doctors decide that surgery is needed to treat vulvodynia?


Surgical treatment for vulvodynia is usually considered only after all other non-invasive treatment options have been exhausted, or if the pain is caused by a specific issue that can be resolved with effective surgery. For example, women with severe vulvar vestibulitis or dysesthetic vulvodynia, who have not found relief from other treatments, may be recommended for surgical intervention.


However, it’s important to note that surgical treatment outcomes vary depending on the individual and the specific type of surgery performed. Women with vulvar vestibulitis should discuss the potential risks and benefits of effective surgery with their healthcare provider, as well as alternative treatment options. In some cases, effective surgery may not result in complete pain relief and could even worsen the symptoms. Therefore, a thorough evaluation of each patient’s symptoms, medical history, and overall health is essential before considering surgical intervention.

Types of Vulvodynia Surgery


There are several surgical procedures that may be considered for vulvodynia treatment:

  • Vestibulectomy: In this procedure, the tissue that is impacted in the vaginal vestibule is surgically extracted. It is typically recommended for women with vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS) for the management of vulvar vestibulitis who have not found relief from other treatments. The goal of a vestibulectomy is to reduce pain and improve sexual functioning.

  • Nerve Decompression Surgery: In some cases, vulvodynia may be caused by compressed or entrapped nerves in the pelvic region. Nerve decompression surgery aims to release these nerves, potentially alleviating pain. This procedure is typically considered for patients with localized vulvodynia or pudendal neuralgia.

  • Excision of Painful Scar Tissue: If painful scar tissue is found to be the cause of vulvodynia, a surgeon may remove the affected tissue to alleviate pain. This option is typically considered for women who have developed vulvodynia or women with vulvar vestibulitis following effective surgical treatment or childbirth.

  • Hysterectomy: In rare cases, a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) may be recommended if the pain is believed to be related to the uterus or if other treatment options have failed. However, this procedure is considered a last resort for women with vulvar vestibulitis due to its invasive nature and potential side effects.

Preparing for Vulvodynia Surgery


Women with dysesthetic vulvodynia or severe vulvar vestibulitis who are considering surgical treatment should take the following steps:


  • Consultation: Schedule a consultation with a surgeon who specializes in the management of vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis to discuss the potential benefits, risks, and recovery process of the surgical treatment.
  • Preoperative Testing: Your surgeon may order tests to evaluate the severity of the condition and to ensure that you are in good health before undergoing surgery.
  • Medication Review: Inform your surgeon of any medications you are currently taking, as some may need to be stopped or adjusted before the surgical intervention.
  • Arrange for Assistance: Arrange for transportation and assistance during the recovery period of the surgical treatment, as you may have limitations on activity and mobility. It is important to work closely with your healthcare team to ensure a successful treatment outcome, and to follow the management plan for vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis as directed by your healthcare provider.

Recovery and Post-Surgery Care


Recovery from vulvodynia surgery can vary depending on the procedure and individual factors. Common aspects of recovery include:

  • Pain Management: Your surgeon may prescribe pain medications to help manage discomfort during the recovery period.

  • Wound Care: Follow your surgeon’s instructions for wound care to ensure proper healing and minimize the risk of infection.

  • Activity Restrictions: Your surgeon will likely advise you to avoid certain activities, such as sexual intercourse, heavy lifting, and vigorous exercise, for a specified period.

  • Follow-Up Appointments: Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments to monitor your progress and address any concerns or complications that may arise.

Risks and Complications


Like with any surgical intervention for the treatment of vulvar vestibulitis, women with vulvar vestibulitis may experience potential risks and complications. These may include infection, bleeding, scarring, pain recurrence or worsening, sexual dysfunction, and anesthesia complications.


Additionally, depending on the specific surgical technique used, there may be a risk of damage to the vestibular glands or other structures in the pelvic region that could result in long-term pelvic pain. It’s important to discuss these potential risks and complications with your surgeon to make an informed decision about whether surgery is the right option for managing your vulvar vestibulitis.

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: How successful is vulvodynia surgery?

A: Success rates can vary depending on the specific procedure and individual factors. Some studies have reported success rates of up to 70-90% for vulvar vestibulectomy in women with vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS).


Q: Will I need additional treatments after surgery?

A: In some cases, women with vulvar vestibulitis may benefit from continued treatments, such as physical therapy or medication management, after surgical intervention to optimize outcomes and maintain pain relief.


Q: Can vulvodynia return after surgery?

A: While surgery can be effective in relieving pain for many women with vulvar vestibulitis, there is a possibility that vulvodynia may return or persist after surgery. The likelihood of recurrence varies depending on the specific procedure and individual factors. Continued management with non-surgical treatments may be necessary to maintain pain relief.


Q: How long does it take to recover from vulvodynia surgery?

A: Recovery time can vary depending on the specific procedure and individual factors. Generally, women with vulvar vestibulitis can expect a recovery period of several weeks to a few months. Your surgeon will provide more specific guidance based on your individual circumstances.


Q: Will vulvodynia surgery affect my ability to have children?

A: Most vulvodynia surgeries, such as vestibulectomy and nerve decompression, do not directly impact fertility. However, a hysterectomy does involve the removal of the uterus, which would prevent future pregnancies. It is essential to discuss your future family planning goals with your surgeon before considering a hysterectomy for vulvodynia treatment.



Vulvodynia is a chronic pain condition that can significantly impact the quality of life for women with vulvar vestibulitis who experience pain in the vulvar vestibule upon touch or pressure. While surgery is not the first-line treatment for criteria for vulvar vestibulitis, it can be an effective treatment option for some women who have unexplained vulvodynia or have not found relief from other effective treatments for the management of vulvar vestibulitis. Understanding the different types of vulvodynia surgery, the recovery process and potential risks and complications is essential for making an informed decision about treatment.


Remember, it is crucial for women with vulvar vestibulitis to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in the treatment of vulvar vestibulitis to determine the best treatment plan for their unique situation. If considering vulvodynia surgery, women with vulvar vestibulitis should discuss their options with a qualified surgeon who specializes in the management of vulvar vestibulitis to ensure the best possible outcome. Asymptomatic women are not candidates for vulvodynia surgery and should not undergo this treatment.

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