OBJECTIVE: To summarize published data about colpocleisis and to highlight areas about which data are lacking. DATA SOURCES: We conducted a literature search on Medline using Ovid and PubMed, from 1966 to January 2004, using search terms "colpocleisis", "colpectomy", "vaginectomy", "pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and surgery", and "vaginal vault prolapse and surgery" and included articles with English-language abstracts. We examined reference lists of published articles to identify other articles not found on the electronic search. METHODS OF STUDY SELECTION: We examined all studies identified in our search that provided any outcome data on colpocleisis. Because of the heterogeneity of outcome measures and follow-up intervals in case series, we did not apply meta-analytic techniques to the data. RESULTS: Colpocleisis for POP is apparently successful in nearly 100% of patients in recent series. The rate of reoperation for stress incontinence or POP after colpocleisis is unknown. Concomitant elective hysterectomy is associated with increased blood loss and length of hospital stay, without known improvement in outcomes. Few studies systematically assess pelvic symptoms. The role of preoperative urodynamic testing to direct optimal management of urinary incontinence and retention remains to be established in this setting. CONCLUSIONS: Colpocleisis is an effective procedure for treatment of advanced POP in patients who no longer desire preservation of coital function. Complications are relatively common in this group of elderly patients. Prospective trials are needed to understand the impact of colpocleisis on functional outcomes and patient satisfaction.