Musculoskeletal sequelae in patients with obstetric fistula - a case-control study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background: Obstetric fistula is essentially a result of pelvic injury caused by prolonged obstructed labour. Foot drop and walking difficulties in some of these women signify that the injury may extend beyond the loss of tissue that led to the fistula. However, these aspects of the pelvic injury are scarcely addressed in the literature. Here we specifically aimed at assessing musculoskeletal function in women with obstetric fistula to appreciate the extent of the sequelae of their pelvic injury. Methods: This case–control study compared 70 patients with obstetric fistula with 100 controls matched for age and years since delivery. The following was recorded: height, weight, past and present walking difficulties, pain, muscle strength and joint range of motion, circumference and reflexes. Differences between groups were analysed using independent sample t-test and chi-square test for independence. Results: A history of leg pain was more common among cases compared to controls, 20% versus 7% (p = 0.02), and 29% of the cases had difficulties walking following the injuring delivery compared to none of the controls (p ≤ 0.001). Of these, four women reported spontaneous recovery. Cases had 7° less range of motion in ankle dorsal flexion (95%CI: −8.1, −4.8), 8° less ankle plantar flexion (95%CI: −10.6, −6.5), 12° less knee flexion (95%CI: −14.1, −8.9), and 4° less knee extension (95%CI: 2.9, 5.0) compared to controls. Twelve % of the cases had lower ankle dorsal flexion strength (p = 0.009). Foot drop was present in three (4.3%) compared with none among controls. Women with fistula had 4° greater movement in hip extension (95%CI: −5.9, −3.1), 2° greater hip lateral rotation (95%CI: 0.7, 3.3) and 9° greater hip abduction (95%CI: 6.4, 10.7). Twelve % of the cases had stronger medial rotation in the hip (p = 0.04), 20% had stronger hip lateral rotation (p ≤ 0.001), 29% had stronger hip extension (p ≤ 0.001), and 15% had stronger hip abduction (p = 0.04) than controls. Conclusions: Women with obstetric fistula commonly experienced walking difficulties after the delivery, had often leg pain and reduced function in the ankle and knee joints that may have been compensated by increased motion and strength in the hip.