An Alternative to Hysterectomy: Endometrial Ablation
Every year about 650,000 American women have hysterectomies. This operation involves surgical removal of the uterus. Many of the women who have this operation do so because of heavy or prolonged periods.
Endometrial ablation offers an effective alternative to hysterectomy for patients suffering from heavy or prolonged bleeding during their period. It is often chosen when other medical treatments have failed or are otherwise undesirable. This procedure involves the removal of the lining of the uterus, which is the source of the bleeding. According to recent studies, most women feel that endometrial ablation relieves the problem with their period. Up to 90% of women who have this procedure are satisfied with the results. After the procedure, the women who were satisfied with it reported lighter periods or normal periods. Some women said that their periods stopped completely after endometrial ablation.
What tests are performed?
We will take your medical history and perform a physical exam to see if endometrial ablation is right for you. Other tests could include some blood tests, uterine lining sampling (biopsy), and hysteroscopy and/or ultrasonography. These procedures are usually done in our office and are quick and relatively painless.
What to expect
Endometrial ablation is an outpatient surgical procedure performed in the Minnesota Women’s Care office. Dependent upon the patient occasionally the procedure will be performed in the outpatient surgery suite in the hospital. The entire procedure usually takes only 15 to 45 minutes. You will then be taken to the recovery room for rest and observation, and will be allowed to go home when you have fully recovered from the anesthesia. It usually takes an hour or two to recover from anesthesia.
How is endometrial ablation performed?
Endometrial ablation is performed during a procedure called operative hysteroscopy. A narrow viewing tube is inserted through the vagina and the cervix into the uterus. A tiny camera attached to the viewing tube (hysteroscope) allows the uterine cavity to be shown on a TV monitor during surgery. Your uterus is filled with a harmless liquid to make the procedure easier. The lining of the uterus is then burned away or vaporized, using a heat generating tool inserted through the viewing tube.
After Endometrial Ablation
- Avoid strenuous activity, usually for 24 hours
- Refrain from sexual intercourse for at least 2 weeks
- Schedule a follow-up appointment
In addition, you may experience some of the following:
- A small amount of bloody, watery discharge for up to 6 weeks following the procedure. It is impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of your surgery until at least three months postoperatively.
- Some cramping, for which your doctor may prescribe or recommend pain medication such as Motrin, Aleve, Advil or Nuprin.
Can I still get pregnant?
Probably not. Most women cannot have children after this procedure. Because there is still a slight possibility of pregnancy, however, you should continue to use contraception until you have entered menopause. Pregnancies have been noted following an ablation.
Endometrial ablation is a safe, effective alternative to hysterectomy. You may also wish to learn more about another alternative, laparoscopic assisted vaginal hysterectomy.