Crosstalk considerations in studies evaluating pelvic floor muscles using surface electromyography in women

Surface electromyography (sEMG) using intravaginal probes is of widespread use for assessing pelvic floor muscles (PFM) activity in women. Although considered as a reliable method, its validity has been called into question due to the presence of a phenomenon called crosstalk. Crosstalk is described as the recording of sEMG activity originating from neighboring muscles rather than coming exclusively from the muscles being investigated. The purpose of this review was to provide an overview of existing literature about crosstalk during intravaginal surface electromyographic recordings.

A scoping review was performed according to the Arksey and O’Malley framework. An electronic search was conducted on six relevant databases. Additionally, authors were directly contacted to identify grey literature. Data extraction consisted of descriptive numeric analysis as well as thematic analysis, which were conducted by two independent reviewers. Forty-nine references written by 34 authors coming from 13 different countries constitute the body of evidence of the present review. Eight main themes have been identified through the thematic analysis. The included material varies greatly in terms of methodology, approach to the crosstalk problem and depth of analysis.

A gap in knowledge affecting the validity of the current sEMG investigation methods was identified. Literature addressing the crosstalk problem is scarce and often flawed. Definitive conclusions are regularly drawn from an insufficient basis of evidence. Further research is, therefore, deeply necessary, although it remains unclear whether this issue can be solved at all with current technology.