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01.06.2014 | Original Article | Ausgabe 6/2014

Techniques in Coloproctology 6/2014

Sex differences in pudendal somatosensory evoked potentials

Techniques in Coloproctology > Ausgabe 6/2014
G. Pelliccioni, V. Piloni, D. Sabbatini, P. Fioravanti, O. Scarpino



Somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) of the pudendal nerve are a well-established diagnostic tool for the evaluation of pelvic floor disorders. However, the possible influence of sex differences on response latencies has not been established yet. The aim of this study was to standardize the procedures and to evaluate possible effects of gender differences on anal and penile/clitoral SEPs.


The anal and dorsal penile/clitoral SEPs were recorded in 84 healthy subjects (40 males and 44 females; mean age 47.9 ± 16.6 years, range 16–81 years; mean height 168.3 ± 20.3 cm, range 155–187 cm). Pudendal SEPs were evoked with a bipolar surface electrode stimulating the clitoris or the base of the penis and the anal orifice and recorded using scalp electrodes. The latency of the first positive component (P1) was measured. The effect and possible interaction of (a) stimulation site and (b) gender on the two variables was explored by multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA).


The examination was well tolerated and a reproducible waveform of sufficient quality was obtained in all the subjects examined. In the female subjects, a mean cortical P1 latency of 37.0 ± 2.6 and 36.4 ± 3.2 ms for anal and clitoral stimulation, respectively, was found. In the male subjects, the cortical latencies were 38.0 ± 3.5 ms for the anal stimulation and 40.2 ± 3.7 ms for the penile stimulation. At MANOVA, a statistically significant main effect of stimulation site and gender as well as a significant interaction between the two variables was found.


Anal and dorsal penile/clitoral SEPs represent a well-tolerated and reproducible method to assess the functional integrity of the sensory pathways in male and female subjects. Obtaining sex-specific reference data, by individual electrophysiological testing, is highly recommended because of significant latency differences between males and females, at least as far as penile/clitoral responses are concerned.

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