Clinical Review

Genitourinary endometriosis: Diagnosis and management

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Early recognition of this rare but potentially devastating disorder is essential to facilitate effective management and optimal outcomes for patients



Endometriosis is a benign disease characterized by endometrial glands and stroma outside of the uterine cavity. It is commonly associated with pelvic pain and infertility. Ectopic endometrial tissue is predominantly located in the pelvis, but it can appear anywhere in the body, where it is referred to as extragenital endometriosis. The bowel and urinary tract are the most common sites of extragenital endometriosis.1

Laparoscopic management of extragenital endometriosis has been described since the 1980s.2 However, laparoscopic management of genitourinary endometriosis is still not widespread.3,4 Physicians are often unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms of genitourinary endometriosis and fail to consider it when a patient presents with bladder pain or hematuria, which may or may not be cyclic. Furthermore, many gynecologists do not have the experience to correctly identify the various forms of endometriosis that may appear on the pelvic organ, including the serosa and peritoneum, as variable colored spots, blebs, lesions, or adhesions. Many surgeons are also not adequately trained in the advanced laparoscopic techniques required to treat genitourinary endometriosis.4

In this article, we describe the clinical presentation and diagnosis of genitourinary endometriosis and discuss laparoscopic management strategies with and without robotic assistance.

Clinical presentation and diagnosis of genitourinary endometriosis

While ureteral and bladder endometriosis are both diseases of the urinary tract, they are not always found together in the same patient. The bladder is the most commonly affected organ, followed by the ureter and kidney.3,5,6 Endometriosis of the bladder usually presents with significant lower urinary tract symptoms. In contrast, ureteral endometriosis is usually silent with no apparent urinary symptoms.

Ureteral endometriosis. Cyclic hematuria is present in less than 15% of patients with ureteral endometriosis. Some patients experience cyclic, nonspecific colicky flank pain.7-9 Otherwise, most patients present with the usual symptoms of endometriosis, such as pelvic pain and dysmenorrhea. In a systematic review, Cavaco-Gomes and colleagues described 700 patients with ureteral endometriosis; 81% reported dysmenorrhea, 70% had pelvic pain, and 66% had dyspareunia.10 Rarely, ureteral endometriosis can result in silent kidney loss if the ureter becomes severely obstructed without treatment.11,12

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