A 28-year-old patient presents for evaluation and management of her chronic pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, and menorrhagia. She previously tried ibuprofen with no pain relief. She also tried oral and long-acting reversible contraceptives but continued to be symptomatic. She underwent pelvic sonography, which demonstrated a large globular uterus with myometrial thickening and myometrial cysts with increased hypervascularity. Subsequent magnetic resonance imaging indicated a thickened junctional zone. Feeling she had exhausted medical manegement options with no significant improvement, she desired surgical treatment, but wanted to retain her future fertility. As a newlywed, she and her husband were planning on building a family so she desired to retain her uterus for potential future pregnancy.
How would you address this patient’s disruptive symptoms, while affirming her long-term plans by choosing the proper intervention?
Adenomyosis is characterized by endometrial-like glands and stroma deep within the myometrium of the uterus and generally is classified as diffuse or focal. This common, benign gynecologic condition is known to cause enlargement of the uterus secondary to stimulation of ectopic endometrial-like cells.1-3 Although the true incidence of adenomyosis is unknown because of the difficulty of making the diagnosis, prevalence has been variously reported at 6% to 70% among reproductive-aged women.4,5
In this review, we first examine the clinical presentation and diagnosis of adenomyosis. We then discuss clinical indications for, and surgical techniques of, adenomyomectomy, including our preferred uterine-sparing approach for focal disease or when the patient wants to preserve fertility: video laparoscopic resection with or without robotic assistance, aided by minilaparotomy when indicated.
Treatment evolved in a century and a half
Adenomyosis was first described more than 150 years ago; historically, hysterectomy was the mainstay of treatment.2,6 Conservative surgical treatment for adenomyosis has been reported since the early 1950s.6-8 Surgical treatment initially became more widespread following the introduction of wedge resection, which allowed for partial excision of adenomyotic nodules.9
More recent developments in diagnostic technologies and capabilities have allowed for the emergence of additional uterine-sparing and minimally invasive surgical treatment options for adenomyosis.3,10 Although the use of laparoscopic approaches is limited because a high level of technical skill is required to undertake these procedures, such approaches are becoming increasingly important as more and more patients seek fertility conservation.11-13
How does adenomyosis present?
Adenomyosis symptoms commonly consist of abnormal uterine bleeding and dysmenorrhea, affecting approximately 40% to 60% and 15% to 30% of patients with the condition, respectively.14 These symptoms are considered nonspecific because they are also associated with other uterine abnormalities.15 Although menorrhagia is not associated with extent of disease, dysmenorrhea is associated with both the number and depth of adenomyotic foci.14
Other symptoms reported with adenomyosis include chronic pelvic pain, dyspareunia, as well as infertility. Note, however, that a large percentage of patients are asymptomatic.16,17
On physical examination, patients commonly exhibit a diffusely enlarged, globular uterus. This finding is secondary to uniform hyperplasia and hypertrophy of the myometrium, caused by stimulation of ectopic endometrial cells.2 A subset of patients experience significant uterine tenderness.18 Other common findings associated with adenomyosis include uterine abnormalities, such as leiomyomata, endometriosis, and endometrial polyps.
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