What is endometrial ablation?
Endometrial ablation destroys a thin layer of the lining of the uterus and stops the menstrual flow in many women. In some women, menstrual bleeding does not stop but is reduced to normal or lighter levels. If ablation does not control heavy bleeding, further treatment or surgery may be required.
Why is endometrial ablation done?
Endometrial ablation is used to treat many causes of heavy bleeding. In most cases, women with heavy bleeding are treated first with medication. If heavy bleeding cannot be controlled with medication, endometrial ablation may be used.
Who should not have endometrial ablation?
Endometrial ablation should not be done in women past menopause. It is not recommended for women with certain medical conditions, including the following:
- Disorders of the uterus or endometrium
- Endometrial hyperplasia
- Cancer of the uterus
- Recent pregnancy
- Current or recent infection of the uterus
Pregnancy is not likely after ablation, but it can happen. If it does, the risk of miscarriage and other problems are greatly increased. If a woman still wants to become pregnant, she should not have this procedure. Women who have endometrial ablation should use birth control until after menopause. Sterilization may be a good option to prevent pregnancy after ablation. A woman who has had ablation still has all her reproductive organs. Routine cervical cancer screening and pelvic exams are still needed.
What techniques are used to perform endometrial ablation?
- Radiofrequency—A probe is inserted into the uterus through the cervix. The tip of the probe expands into a mesh-like device that sends radiofrequency energy into the lining. The energy and heat destroy the endometrial tissue, while suction is applied to remove it.
- Freezing—A thin probe is inserted into the uterus. The tip of the probe freezes the uterine lining. Ultrasound is used to help guide the procedure.
- Heated fluid— Fluid is inserted into the uterus through a hysteroscope, a slender, light-transmitting device. The fluid is heated and stays in the uterus for about 10 minutes. The heat destroys the lining.
- Heated balloon—A balloon is placed in the uterus with a hysteroscope.Heated fluid is put into the balloon. The balloon expands until its edges touch the uterine lining. The heat destroys the endometrium.
- Microwave energy—A special probe is inserted into the uterus through the cervix. The probe applies microwave energy to the uterine lining, which destroys it.
- Electrosurgery—Electrosurgery is done with a resectoscope. A resectoscope is a slender telescopic device that is inserted into the uterus. It has an electrical wire loop, roller-ball, or spiked-ball tip that destroys the uterine lining. This method usually is done in an operating room with general anesthesia. It is not as frequently used as the other methods.
- Cramping, like menstrual cramps, for 1–2 days
- Thin, watery discharge mixed with blood, which can last a few weeks. The discharge may be heavy for 2–3 days after the procedure.
- Frequent urination for 24 hours
Endometrial ablation has certain risks. There is a small risk of infection and bleeding. The device used may pass through the uterine wall or bowel. With some methods, there is a risk of burns to the vagina, vulva, and bowel. Rarely, the fluid used to expand your uterus during electrosurgery may be absorbed into your bloodstream. This condition can be serious. To prevent this problem, the amount of fluid used is carefully checked throughout the procedure.