Skip to main content
Medicine LibreTexts

3.1: 3.1:Physical Examination and the POP-Q

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    All women presenting with pelvic floor dysfunction should be thoroughly examined in the supine, left lateral and standing positions. Where a surgical intervention is planned, the responsible surgeon should determine exactly what may be required at operation – so that the appropriate consent can be obtained and the correct intervention planned.


    The women’s mobility and general condition should be noted.

    Neurological examination

    The spinal segments S2,3.4 should be assessed by testing the tone, strength and sensation in the lower limbs. The anal sphincter tone should be tested.

    Gynaecological Examination

    It is impossible to perform an adequate urogynaecological examination without using a Sims speculum and in some circumstances two Sim’s speculae are required. The examination begins with the woman in the dorsal position. The vulva and vagina are inspected for any lesions, atrophy or excoriation. The woman is then asked to cough or valsalva while the clinician observes for any stress incontinence. She is then asked to turn onto her left side and the Sims speculum is used to inspect the anterior and posterior vaginal walls for prolapse. It is imperative that the middle compartment is also adequately assessed for any uterine or vaginal vault descent. This can be difficult, but if one uses two Sims speculae placed anteriorly and posteriorly, while the women strains down, it is relatively easy to assess this compartment. The prolapse should be graded using either the Baden- Walker or POP-Q systems (see below). If the women’s symptoms are not adequately explained by the findings at examination, it may be useful to perform an additional assessment with her standing. This is accomplished by asking her to stand with her legs apart while the examiner bends in front of the patient and gently palpates the anterior, middle and posterior compartments. She is then asked to cough again in the standing position.

    Classification and grading of prolapse

    Grading and classification of pelvic organ prolapse enables clinicians to communicate with each other and is also useful in a research setting. The most commonly used grading system is the BadenWalker halfway system which grades prolapse as follows:

    Grade I: Descent halfway to the introitis

    Grade 2: Descent down to the vaginal introitis

    Grade 3: Descent beyond the introitis but not maximal

    Grade 4: Maximal descent

    This grading system is useful in day to day clinical practice but it has a number of shortcomings. It does not give a quantitative impression of the severity of the prolapse. It does not address the vaginal length, perineal body size or the length of the urogenital hiatus. The POP-Q (Pelvic Organ Prolapse Quantification System) was developed by the International Continence Society to address these issues and it supercedes the previous systems used to describe POP. The new objective assessment allows a clear and unambiguous description of prolapse, facilitating better objective assessment, management and surgical comparison. Precise staging made gynaecological oncology an objective progressive disciple, and it is hoped that introduction of POP – Q will allow similar advances in the management of prolapse. Terms used in the past such as for example small, medium or large, cystocoele or rectcoele, are no longer applicable. At first glance, the system appears complicated and difficult to master but once it is understood, it can be performed in less than 30 seconds while performing a routine gynaecological examination. It is based on measurements that are taken using the introitis as reference. Any measurement above this is negative and anything below this is positive. The measurements are taken using a marked Pap smear spatula. Six specific vaginal sites (points Aa, Ba, C, D, Bp and Ap) and the vaginal length (tvl) are assessed using centimeters of measurement from the introitus. The length of the genital hiatus (gh) and perineal body (pb) are measured.

    The points are defined as follows, with the ranges as suggested in the following table.

    All measurements are made to the nearest 0.5cm.

    Table \(\PageIndex{3.1.1}\): POP - Q DEFINITION AND RANGES





    Anterior vaginal wall 3cm proximal to the hymen

    -3 to +3


    Leading – most point of anterior vaginal wall prolapse

    -3 to +tvl


    Most distal edge of cervix or vaginal cuff (if cervix is absent)

    -/+ tvl


    Most distal portion of the posterior fornix

    -/+ tvl


    Posterior vaginal wall 3cm proximal to the hymen

    -3 to +3


    Leading – most point of posterior vaginal wall prolapse

    -3 to +tvl


    Perpendicular distance from mid – urethral meatus to posterior hymen

    No limit


    Perpendicular distance from mid – anal opening to posterior hymen

    No limit


    Posterior fornix or vaginal cuff (if cervix is absent) to the hymen

    No limit

    Consensus and validation of the new system has been extensive. The clinical examination is performed and the measurements recorded on the “POPQ grid”. (Table 2)

    Table \(\PageIndex{3.1.2}\): The POPQ Grid – Used to Record Examination Results




    anterior wall


    anterior wall


    genital hiatus


    perineal body


    total vaginal length


    posterior wall


    posterior wall


    posterior fornix


    *Measurement D is not taken in the absence of a cervix

    The measurement of prolapse is performed in accordance with certain measurement fundamentals. (Table 3)

    Table \(\PageIndex{3.1.3}\): POPQ Measurement Fundamentals

    All measurements are made to the nearest


    All measurements are made relative to the hymen

    Points proximal to the hymen are negative (inside the body)

    Points distal to the hymen are positive (outside the body)

    The hymen is assigned a value zero

    gh, pb, and tvl measurements will always have a positive value

    All measurements, except for tvl, are made while patient is bearing down

    Both the patient’s position during the examination (lithotomy, birthing chair, or standing) and the state of her bladder and rectum (full or empty) should be noted

    Staging of the grade of pelvic support is objectively done on a five – stage system. (Table 4)

    Table \(\PageIndex{3.1.4}\): The five stages of Pelvic Organ Support

    Stage 0:

    No descent of any compartments

    Stage 1:

    Descent of the most prolapsed compartment between perfect

    support and – 1cm, or 1cm proximal to the hymen

    Stage 2:

    Descent of the most prolapsed compartment between -1cm and +1cm.

    Stage 3:

    Descent of the most prolapsed

    compartment between +1cm and (tvl -2cm)

    Stage 4:

    Descent of the most prolapsed compartment from (tvl -2cm) to complete prolapse

    Explanation of individual points

    Points Aa, Ab, Pa and Pb are the most difficult to understand. They represent the extent of prolapse, be it above the introitis ( ie negative) or below the introitis ( ie positive)

    Point Aa

    If an imaginary small man walked from the introitis up the anterior vaginal wall and made a mark once he had covered 3 cm this would be point Aa. The distance this point descends on the vertical plane can therefore be either -3, -2, -1 if it is above the introitis, 0 at the introitis and +1,+ 2 or +3 below the introitis. This point is therefore never more than 3 and represents the bottom 3cm of the vagina.

    Point Ba

    This point describes additional prolapse of the anterior vaginal wall that goes beyond the first 3 cm. It is the most distal part of the prolapse. It can therefore be greater than the +3 described for point Aa. For the milder prolapse, it often equates to that of Aa. Because it essentially defines more extensive prolapse, when there is no prolapse, by convention we make it the same as Aa.

    Point Ap

    Again our imaginary man makes the 3cm trip up the posterior wall where he marks off point Ap. The distance this point descends can again be therefore either -3, -2, -1 if it is above the introitis, 0 at the introitis and +1,+ 2 or +3 below the introitis.

    Point Bp

    Again, this point describes more extensive prolapse beyond the 3 cm mark of Ap similar to Ba. Again if there is no prolapse, by convention it is -3.

    Point C

    This describes the prolapse of the cervix or vaginal vault. If the cervix, for example, is 7cm above the

    introitis, this point is then -7, if it is 4 cm below C is +4.

    Point D

    This describes the descent of the posterior fornix again similar to the cervix.

    Total vaginal Length

    This is the measurement of the length of the vaginal tube from top to bottom. It is usually measured with the marked spatula inserted to its maximum into the vagina.

    Urogenital hiatus

    The measuring spatula is placed anteroposteriorly along the introitis and measures from the urethral meatus to the midline of the posterior hymen.

    Perineal body

    Again the perineum is measured from the posterior hymen to the anus in the midline.

    This page titled 3.1: 3.1:Physical Examination and the POP-Q is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Stephen Jeffery and Peter de Jong via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.