New fibre optic instrument to detect vaginal wall weakness for assessing pelvic organ prolapse

Lead researcher

Associate Professor Caroline Gargett

Main finding

A new device specifically designed to detect areas of vaginal wall weakness was designed by a collaborator who has expertise in developing instruments using fibre-optics technology. John Arkwright modified a vaginal speculum by incorporating 8 fibre optic pressure sensors on each blade and produced a device that measures force exerted by the vagina along its length. Our testing of the device in pre-clinical models showed that it could measure variations in pressures along the vaginal wall with high resolution, which matched areas of weakness assessed by a clinical score used for detecting Pelvic Organ Prolapse, called the POP-Q. In particular we showed lower pressures in pre-clinical models that had produced many offspring compared with virgins in a region typically affected by Pelvic Organ Prolapse in women.


The Ritchie Centre

Research group

Endometrial stem cell biology group


Dr Luke Parkinson, Dr Natharnia Young, Associate Professor Anna Rosamilia, Mr Aditya Vashi, Professor Jerome Werkmeister, Dr Anthony Papageorgiou, Professor John Arkwright

Journal and article title

Most surprising

Our pressure sensor device is the first instrument to measure vaginal wall strength along its entire length and it is capable of detecting localised areas of weakness associated with Pelvic Organ Prolapse.

Future implications

This new pressure sensor device may provide a more accurate measurement with spatial resolution of vaginal wall herniation associated with Pelvic Organ Prolapse in women. It may be used for diagnosing Pelvic Organ Prolapse and for monitoring progress following reconstructive surgery to repair the damaged vagina in women. Indeed we are currently recruiting women with and without Pelvic Organ Prolapse to trial a modified version of the instrument tested in pre-clinical models.

Disease/health impact

Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Other points of interest

The development of the pressure sensor device for quantifying and spatially resolving vaginal wall weakness in our pre-clinical model and in women is one part of the holistic approach we are taking to diagnose, treat and prevent Pelvic Organ Prolapse using a bioengineered cell-based therapy.