It’s often described as a silent disorder, but it doesn’t need to be.
Female patients suffering from pelvic floor disorders can be helped in a variety of ways, both surgical and non-surgical, and they don’t need to suffer in silence, says Washington University female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery specialists Chiara Ghetti, MD, MSc, and Jerry Lowder, MD, MSc, director.
The board-certified and fellowship-trained surgeons provide a full range of treatment options for women with pelvic floor disorders at three BJC HealthCare locations — Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Missouri Baptist Medical Center.
“Our practice can help women with pelvic floor disorders such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, childbirth injury, vaginal mesh complications, pelvic floor dysfunction and the repair of fistulas,” Dr. Ghetti says. “Pelvic floor disorders are very common. It’s estimated that 30 to 50 percent of women may experience some form in their lives.”
Patients seen by Dr. Ghetti and Dr. Lowder are often referred by their primary care physician, OB/Gyn or are self-referred. There are still cases where physicians don’t realize the benefits of treatment for their patients. “We recently saw a patient who was told by her physician that what she was experiencing was part of the aging process,” Dr. Ghetti says.
Both surgeons want patients to know there are a range of treatment options that can be determined based on a comprehensive consultation directly with the surgeon and an exam. The decision for treatment is often based on the comfort level of the patient and what will give them the quality of life they desire.
“Our patients range in age from child-bearing age to geriatric,” Dr. Lowder says. “We often have patients who have been in discomfort for some time because they are embarrassed to talk to their doctors, family or friends. But they don’t have to live with this.”
Keli Beckett, 42, is one of those patients who was experiencing problems in her pelvic area but was too embarrassed to discuss these issues with her own doctor.
“When I finally talked to my gynecologist, she referred me to Dr. Lowder, who diagnosed me with vaginal wall prolapse right away and told me that surgery was my best option,” says Beckett, who had undergone a hysterectomy after having two children who are now in their 20s.
As a retail department manager near her home in Freeburg, Ill., Beckett is on her feet all the time. The discomfort she was experiencing, such as pain, pressure and bulging, was not allowing for the quality of life she wanted.
“After meeting Dr. Lowder, I went home and did my own research and found out this is more common than not,” Beckett says. “I was embarrassed to talk about it, and so I put it off. I was finally so uncomfortable that I just wanted things fixed.”
In May 2015, Beckett underwent an abdominal sacral colpopexy at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. The procedure, which is the gold standard for advanced pelvic organ prolapse, is performed through the abdomen and involves using hernia graft material to re-support the vagina. Dr. Lowder and Dr. Ghetti typically perform this procedure laparoscopically.
After an overnight stay at the hospital and several weeks of recovery at home, Beckett says there is a noticeable difference and she feels much better now. “Dr. Lowder was very upfront about everything and what to expect,” she says. “The hospital was also nice, and the staff was very friendly. I was pleased with how everything went.”
Dr. Lowder sees many of his patients at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, where he has clinic hours two days a month and also performs surgeries. “It’s an incredibly welcoming environment for patients. Although it’s small, it is full-service, with a staff of skilled and professional clinicians. The hospital has a very collegial feel, focused on the patient,” he says. “Many patients also have other physicians on campus or close by, so there is a continuity of care.”
Following her procedure and recommended pelvic therapy for pelvic area strengthening, Beckett is happy she finally spoke up about her discomfort. “I would definitely recommend this procedure, Dr. Lowder and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital to anyone who was having these problems,” she says. “You don’t have to put it off, and you don’t have to live with it.”