Reconstructive surgery after female genital mutilation: a prospective cohort study

The Lancet. 2012 July 380(9837):134 – 141.

Reconstructive surgery after female genital mutilation: a prospective cohort study

Foldes P, Cuzin B, Andro A


Women who have undergone female genital mutilation rarely have access to the reconstructive surgery that is now available. Our objective was to assess the immediate and long-term outcomes of this surgery.

Methods Between 1998 and 2009, we included consecutive patients with female genital mutilation aged 18 years or older who had consulted a urologist at Poissy-St Germain Hospital, France. We used the WHO classification to prospectively include patients with type II or type III mutilation. The skin covering the stump was resected to reveal the clitoris. The suspensory ligament was then sectioned to mobilise the stump, the scar tissue was removed from the exposed portion and the glans was brought into a normal position. All patients answered a questionnaire at entry about their characteristics, expectations, and preoperative clitoris pleasure and pain, measured on a 5-point scale. Those patients who returned at 1 year for follow-up were questioned about clitoris pain and functionality. We compared data from the 1-year group with the total group of patients who had surgery.

Findings We operated on 2938 women with a mean age of 29·2 (SD 7·77 years; age at excision 6·1, SD 3·5 years). Mali, Senegal, and Ivory Coast were the main countries of origin, but 564 patients had undergone female genital mutilation in France. The 1-year follow-up visit was attended by 866 patients (29%). Expectations before surgery were identity recovery for 2933 patients (99%), improved sex life for 2378 patients (81%), and pain reduction for 847 patients (29%). At 1-year follow-up, 363 women (42%) had a hoodless glans, 239 (28%) had a normal clitoris, 210 (24%) had a visible projection, 51 (6%) had a palpable projection, and three (0·4%) had no change. Most patients reported an improvement, or at least no worsening, in pain (821 of 840 patients) and clitoral pleasure (815 of 834 patients). At 1 year, 430 (51%) of 841 women experienced orgasms. Immediate complications after surgery (haematoma, suture failure, moderate fever) were noted in 155 (5%) of the 2938 patients, and 108 (4%) were briefly re-admitted to hospital.

Interpretation Reconstructive surgery after female genital mutilation seems to be associated with reduced pain and restored pleasure. It needs to be made more readily available in developed countries by training surgeons.