Optical coherence tomography is a noninvasive technology that visualizes tissue microstructure with high spatial resolution. We designed a novel vaginal system that demonstrates a clear distinction between vaginal tissues planes. In this study, we sought to compare vaginal tomographic images of premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women, demonstrate feasibility of tracking vaginal tissue changes after treatment with fractional-pixel CO2 laser therapy, and obtain a histologic correlation of these findings.
Enrolled subjects underwent imaging and were divided into 3 groups based on menopausal status. Women with genitourinary syndrome of menopause who received fractional-pixel CO2 laser therapy were assessed before and after treatment. A cadaveric vagina was used to obtain tomographic and histologic images to assess for accuracy. Our primary outcome was mean vaginal epithelial thickness. Statistical analysis was performed using analysis of variance and t tests, respectively.
Among 6 women, the mean vaginal epithelial thickness decreased with menopause (P < 0.01). Although change in epithelial thickness after fractional-pixel CO2 laser treatment varied between the 2 subjects evaluated, it increased significantly for the subject who reported improvement of vaginal symptoms (P < 0.01). Using a cadaveric specimen, optical biopsy was correlated to an hematoxylin and eosin-stained biopsy of the same vaginal site.
This study establishes feasibility of optical coherence tomography in providing an optical biopsy of the vaginal epithelium and lamina propria. In addition, it demonstrates vaginal changes as women enter menopause. This report is the initial phase of a longitudinal cohort study to evaluate changes in vaginal microstructure after energy-based treatment.