Simplified questionnaire found sensitive for range of vaginal symptoms

August 31, 2005

A revised version of a questionnaire designed to assess a wide range of vaginal symptoms is sufficiently sensitive and valid, and can detect changes in a patient's status, researchers reported yesterday.

A revised version of a questionnaire designed to assess a wide range of vaginal symptoms is sufficiently sensitive and valid, and can detect changes in a patient's status, researchers reported yesterday.

Developed in response to the International Consultation on Incontinence call in both 2002 and 2004 for a fully validated tool to assess a variety of pelvic symptoms including those of the lower urinary tract, lower bowel, and vagina, the ICIQ-VS questionnaire has been reduced in length and has attempted to exclude questions that lack clinical significance.

"The use of the questionnaire allows for a distinction between patients with and without symptoms, helps identify those who have improved due to surgery, and those patients who would remain stable," said Nikki Gardener, a research nurse at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, United Kingdom, who helped develop the questionnaire. "It is also sensitive because it can detect changes."

Researchers sent copies of the questionnaire to 141 symptomatic urogynecology patients. The response rate was 74%, with just one vaginal symptom demonstrating low levels of missing data (2.4%).

Investigators compared the content of responses from the symptomatic women with those of a control sample of 77 women in the community to determine differences in the prevalence of vaginal symptoms or sexual matters. There was a highly statistically significant difference in the prevalence of vaginal symptoms and sexual problems between symptomatic women and women in the community.

The mixed-design study also looked at the outcomes of women undergoing surgery for vaginal symptoms. A total of 66 women were questioned about vaginal symptoms and sexual matters at baseline and at 12 weeks following treatment. They found a statistically significant drop in the reporting frequency of vaginal symptoms as well as a decrease in the reporting of sexual matters.

Moreover, a sample of 34 women showed the questionnaire was reliable: test-retest reliability was good for 11 of 14 vaginal symptoms and nine of the 10 sexual matter items.

"It does measure what we think it should," said Gardener. "It doesn't replace a patient history, but it helps present the subjective perception of the patient."