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Vaginoplasty is a reconstructive plastic surgery and cosmetic procedure for the vaginal canal and its mucous membrane, and of vulvo-vaginal structures that might be absent or damaged because of congenital disease (e.g. vaginal atresia) or because of an acquired cause (e.g. childbirth physical trauma, cancer). As such, the term vaginoplasty generally describes any such cosmetic reconstructive and corrective vaginal surgery, whilst the term neovaginoplasty specifically describes the procedures of either partial or total construction or reconstruction of the vulvo-vaginal complex. Sometimes referred to as "vaginal rejuvenation”, “aesthetic vaginal surgery” or “cosmetic vaginal surgery”, various results aim to strengthen the function of the vulvo-vaginal area, firm up and reshape tissue for youthful appearances. In regular terms, the procedure is essentially a “face lift” for the vulva and vagina. Vaginal rejuvenation is often two combined distinct surgeries of labiaplasty and vaginoplasty, to restore or enhance the vagina's cosmetic appearance or function. Labiaplasty is a labia reduction and cosmetic enhancement genital surgical procedure to reduce or change the shape of the labia minora (small lips) on the outside of the vagina. Some surgeries are needed for discomfort occurring from chronic labial irritation that develops from tight clothing, sex, sports or other physical activities. Vaginoplasty surgery is done by removing excess vaginal lining and tightening the surrounding soft tissues and muscles. The post-operative outcome of vaginoplasty is variable; it usually allows coitus (sexual intercourse) after a week, although sensation might not always be present. In fertile women, menstruation and fertilization are assured when the uterus and the ovaries have preserved their normal functions; in a few cases, vaginal childbirth is possible.
In male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, some trans women patients undergo vaginoplasty as part of their physical (sex) transition. Sexual activity is also possible, although with a much longer post-operative delay (usually around six weeks). Sensation is usually very good. One important difference regarding vaginoplasty on trans women is the need to dilate the vagina. A few days after surgery, the vaginal stent is removed and a long series of vaginal dilation begins. A set of dilators is used during each dilation, each one with an increasing large width. For roughly the first week or two, and sometimes up to a month, dilation is performed several times a day using the smaller dilators. It can then be tapered off gradually, becoming once per day, then every other day, and then once per week, all while working up to the larger dilators. Eventually, it can be slowed down to once per month, and use of only one dilator (of the larger widths from the set) is the goal. Some trans women find they require dilation even less, even once every couple of months, depending on experience and individual physiology. However, it is important to note that waiting too long between dilations (the exact time depending on post-operative time and individual physiology) leads to increased difficulty restarting dilation. Vaginal dilation is also required for life, and sexual activity (including intercourse) in place of dilation may not be sufficient. The physical factors that limit vaginal dimensions are the rectoprostatic Denonvilliers’ Fascia (depth) and the Levator ani muscle (diameter); thus, in trans women patients, the narrowness of the male pelvis can reduce the available area to use for vaginoplasty.
Vaginoplasty utilizes autologous (patient-derived) tissue from the patient’s person, to construct areas of vagina and areas of the vulvovaginal complex. The tissues available for surgical correction include the oral mucosa, skin flaps, skin grafts, the vaginal labia, penile skin, penile tissue, scrotal skin, and intestinal mucosa. In surgical praxis, it is important to electrolytically remove the follicles from a hair-bearing skin graft, unless the surgeon directs otherwise; usually, the skin graft is depilated intra-operatively, either manually (scraped) or by electrocauterization. Besides the vaginoplastic surgery techniques herein discussed, earlier plastic surgery procedures do exist, but have been superseded by the more effective results (outcome) of contemporary vaginoplasty.
In the balloon vaginoplasty technique, a foley catheter is laparoscopically inserted to the rectouterine pouch whereupon gradual traction and distension are applied to create a neovagina. Moreover, balloon vaginoplasty also is a new technique for treating vaginal aplasia, which also is applied as a technically simple, physically safe, and medically effective alternative vaginoplasty for creating a neovagina, especially when conventional laparoscopic surgery is either infeasible or unsafe.
Buccal (oral) mucosa
A relatively novel surgical approach to treating vaginal agenesis is utilizing the buccal mucosa as the tissue for lining the vagina (ca. 8.0 cm. deep). The medical advantages of this vaginoplasty technique include the biological and healing qualities of the buccal mucosa tissue, minimal scarring, and a short, post-operative recovery for the patient. The disadvantages include limited vaginal dimensions (depth and width), and the possibility of either intraoral damage, when tissue-harvesting, or of complications.
In surgery, the tissue donor site in the cheek (ca. 2.5 x 8.0 cm.) is marked to avoid damage to the Stensen’s duct (parotid duct) and to the parotid gland. To create the vaginal lining, the buccal mucosa tissue graft is micro-perforated to allow shaping it to a larger size of greater area (surface); it then is formed upon a stent, and afterwards affixed to the vaginal space (created earlier in the operation), with its edge sutured to the minor labia and to the perineal skin. The vaginal mold of buccal mucosa is then (temporarily) secured to the perineal skin, to allow the patient’s recovery.
The colovaginoplasty (colon section) technique creates a vagina by cutting away a section of the sigmoid colon and using it to form a vaginal lining. This surgery is performed on women with androgen insensitivity syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, vaginal agenesis, müllerian agenesis, and other intersexual conditions wherein non-invasive forms of deepening the vagina cannot be performed (mostly on trans women patients) as an alternative to penile inversion, with or without an accompanying skin graft (usually from the thigh or the abdomen). Because of the potential complications (e.g. diversion colitis) most surgeons will recommend a colovaginoplasty procedure only when there is no alternative procedure.
Don Flap (labia minora flap)
The Don Flap correction of vaginal agenesis, uses a technique similar to that of penile inversion, that sutures the labia minora together to create a neovagina. A refinement of this vaginoplsatic technique is its utilization of the prepucial skin (hood) of the clitoris as a horse-shoe-shaped, one-piece flap. Yet, although the Don Flap technique is a relatively simple surgical procedure, the most obvious disadvantages of the labia minora flap surgery include the need for restorative labiaplasty and cervical dilation to produce a vagina of adequate dimensions (depth and width).
The McIndoe vaginoplasty technique utilizes split-thickness skin grafts that cover a mold, which then is inserted to a surgically created space, between the bladder and the rectum. The principal, technical difference between the McIndoe vaginoplasty and the Vecchietti vaginoplasty, is which tissue to utilize to line the created neovagina. Each surgical procedure has positive and negative factors, especially regarding upon whom such a plastic surgical technique can be applied, because the post-operative outcome varies with the patient’s indications.
In genital reassignment, penile inversion is the most common plastic surgical technique for creating a neovagina for trans women patients; it also is used for the genital corrections for people born intersex. Along with the colovaginoplasty procedure, penile inversion is one of the two principal vaginoplasty procedures used for creating a neovagina. Applying a flap technique (first used by Sir Harold Gillies in 1951), the spongiform erectile tissue of the penis is removed, and the skin, with its nerves and vascular system (blood supply) still attached, is used to create a vestibule area and labia minora, which then are inverted into the neovaginal cavity created in the pelvic tissue. Part of the glans penis tip, with its nerve and vascular systems still connected, becomes the clitoris; and the urethra is shortened to end at a place appropriate to the female genital anatomy. Another common technique for creating a neoclitoris utilizes the urethral spongiform tissue. This was the most common penile inversion technique, and was so used by Dr. Burou and Dr. Stanley Biber; however, some surgeons do not create a neoclitoris as part of a penile inversion.
In treating müllerian agenesis, the Vecchietti procedure is a laparoscopic surgical technique that produces a vagina of dimensions (depth and width) comparable to those of a normal vagina (ca. 8.0 cm. deep). A small, plastic sphere (“olive”) is threaded (sutured) against the vaginal area; the threads are drawn though the vaginal skin, up through the abdomen, and through the navel. There, the threads are attached to a traction device, and then daily are drawn tight so that the “olive” is pulled inwards and stretches the vagina, by approximately 1.0 cm. per day, thereby creating a vagina, approximately 7.0 cm. deep by 7.0 cm. wide, in 7 days. The mean operating room (OR) time for the Vecchietti vaginoplasty is approximately 45 minutes; yet, depending upon the patient and her indications, the procedure might require more time.
The penile-inversion technique of the Wilson Method is different from the traditional penile-inversion technique in that it is a three-stage surgery, comprising a two-stage initial vaginoplasty. The Wilson Method surgery is initially performed like a traditional penile inversion, until the vaginal-vault creation step, in which the vault of the vagina is left unfinished, as a raw surface, and is packed with a sterile stent, which, after 5–7 days, then is lined with a skin graft harvested from the buttocks. The penile skin is used to create the labia minora, clitoral hooding, and the anterior fourchette (frenulum); the glans penis is used to create the clitoris, and the scrotum is used to create the labia majora.
Labiaplasty is a vaginoplastic surgery technique for reducing the size the genital labia — either the majora or the minora — which are any of the four folds of tissue of the vulva. It can be performed as a discrete surgery, or as a subordinate procedure within a vaginoplasty.
A “vaginal rejuvenation” is a non-reconstructive vaginoplasty that restores the muscle tone and the esthetics of the vagina, by removing excess tissues and tightening the supportive structures of the vulvovaginal complex, in effort either to reduce or to reverse the effects of aging and parturition (childbearing). The advantages are a physically comfortable health and an improved self-image (mental health); the potential disadvantages are decreased clitoral and genital sensation, and complications, such as infection, tissue adhesions, and scarring.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published Committee Opinion No. 378: Vaginal “Rejuvenation” and Cosmetic Vaginal Procedures (2007), the college’s formal policy statement of opposition to the commercial misrepresentations of labiaplasty, and associated vaginoplastic procedures, as medically “accepted and routine surgical practices”. The ACOG doubted the medical safety and the therapeutic efficacy of the surgical techniques and procedures for performing labiaplasty, vaginal rejuvenation, the designer vagina, revirgination, and Gräfenberg Spot amplification, and recommended that women seeking such genitoplastic surgeries must be fully informed, with the available surgical-safety statistics, of the potential health risks of surgical-wound infection, of pudendal nerve damage (resulting in either an insensitive or an over-sensitive vulva), of dyspareunia (painful coitus), of tissue adhesions (epidermoid cysts), and of painful scars.
- Gender reassignment therapy
- Genital modification and mutilation
- Intersex surgery
- Sex reassignment surgery male-to-female
- Sex reassignment surgery female-to-male
- Vulvovaginal health
- List of transgender-related topics
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