Clinical Review

Genitourinary endometriosis: Diagnosis and management

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Medical management

Empiric medical therapies for endometriosis are centered around the idea that ectopic endometrial tissue responds to treatment in a similar manner as normal eutopic endometrium. The goals of treatment are to reduce or eliminate cyclic menstruation, thereby decreasing peritoneal seeding and suppressing the growth and activity of established ectopic implants. Medical therapy commonly involves the use of gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists or antagonists, danazol, combined oral contraceptives, progestins, and aromatase inhibitors.

Medical therapy is commonly employed for patients with mild or early-stage disease and in those who are poor surgical candidates or decline surgery. Medical management alone clearly is contraindicated in the setting of ureteral obstruction and—in our opinion—may not be a good option for those with endometriosis of the ureter, given the potential for recurrence and potential serious sequelae of reduced renal function.22 Therefore, surgery has become the standard approach to therapy for mild to moderate cases of ureteral endometriosis.3

Medical therapy for patients with endometriosis of the bladder is generally considered a temporary solution as hormonal suppression, with its associated adverse effects, must be maintained throughout menopause. However, if endometriosis lesions lie within close proximity to the trigone, medical management is preferred, as surgical excision in the area of the trigone may predispose patients to neurogenic bladder and retrograde bladder reflux.23,24

Surgical management

The objectives of surgical treatment for genitourinary tract endometriosis are to excise all visible disease, to prevent or delay recurrence of the disease to the extent possible, and to avoid any further morbidity—in particular, to preserve renal function in cases of ureteral endometriosis—and to avoid iatrogenic injury to surrounding pelvic nervous structures25-27 (FIGURE 2). The surgical approach depends on the technical expertise of the surgeon and the availability of necessary instrumentation. In our experience, laparoscopy with or without robotic assistance is the preferred surgical approach.3,4,6,11,28-32

Others have reported on the benefits of laparoscopy over laparotomy for the surgical management of genitourinary endometriosis. In a review of 61 patients who underwent either robot-assisted laparoscopic (n = 25) or open (n = 41) ureteroneocystostomy (n = 41), Isac and colleagues reported the procedure was longer in the laparoscopic group (279 min vs 200 min, P<.001), but the laparoscopic group had a shorter hospital stay (3 days vs 5 days, P<.001), used fewer narcotics postoperatively (P<.001), and had lower intraoperative blood loss (100 mL vs 150 mL, P<.001).32 No differences in long-term outcomes were observed in either cohort.

In a systematic review of 700 patients undergoing laparoscopic surgery for ureteral endometriosis, Cavaco-Gomes and colleagues reported that conversion to laparotomy occurred in only 3% to 7% of cases.10 In instances of ureteral endometriosis, laparoscopy provides greater visualization of the intraperitoneal contents over laparotomy, enabling better evaluation and treatment of lesions.3,29,33,34 Robot-assisted laparoscopy provides the additional advantages of 3D visualization, potential for an accelerated learning curve over traditional laparoscopy, improvement in dissection technique, and ease of suturing technique.6,35,36

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