Conference Coverage

Consider sparing the uterus in prolapse procedures



– A female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgeon urged colleagues to consider uterus-sparing hysteropexies instead of hysterectomies in pelvic organ prolapse repairs.

Dr. Beri M. Ridgeway

Dr. Beri M. Ridgeway

There are many reasons to spare the uterus, from ensuring natural menopause timing to providing a quicker operation associated with a faster recovery, said Beri M. Ridgeway, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, at the Pelvic Anatomy and Gynecologic Surgery Symposium. Even so, “in the U.S., gynecologists rarely offer uterine preservation for women who desire repair of their uterovaginal prolapse.”

According to research compiled by Dr. Ridgeway, about 74,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in the United States to treat pelvic organ prolapse. The procedure became standard in the second half of the 20th century, in part to reduce cancer risk.

But attitudes evolved starting in the 1990s “as we have had better cancer screening and more focus on patient sexuality, patient autonomy, and quality of life,” Dr. Ridgeway said.

She offered these reasons to question hysterectomies to treat pelvic organ prolapse repairs:

  • It’s not clear whether hysterectomies address the anatomic problems that produce prolapse in the first place. “Prolapse is caused by weakened or damaged tissue – connective tissue, muscles, etc.,” she said in an interview. “The problem is what is supporting the uterus, not the uterus itself.”
  • Despite assumptions, women don’t necessarily prefer hysterectomy. Dr. Ridgeway pointed to a 2013 study in which researchers surveyed 213 women with prolapse symptoms about their preferred treatment, assuming that outcomes were the same. The results: 36% preferred uterine preservation, 20% preferred hysterectomy, and 44% reported no strong preference (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Nov;209[5]:470.e1-6.).
  • Hysterectomies hasten menopause.

There has been a perception that uterus removal is appropriate in women who don’t wish to have any more children, Dr. Ridgeway said. “You had your babies, you’re done, you don’t need this anymore.” In fact, “that’s basically not true.”

laparoscopic surgery being performed U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ciara Gosier

As she explained, hysterectomy is linked to earlier menopause, and “even losing one ovary pushed patients into menopause significantly earlier.” She pointed to a 2016 Australian study, which found that “women who have a hysterectomy (with ovarian conservation) have a higher risk of hot flushes and night sweats that persist over an extended period” (Maturitas. 2016 Sep;91:1-7).

There’s no consensus on how hysterectomy affects sexual function. However, Dr. Ridgeway noted, it’s clear that pelvic floor disorders disrupt sexual function, and most women see improvement after surgical treatment.

The rate of uterine pathology is low in hysterectomy. Dr. Ridgeway highlighted a 2018 study of 24,076 women who underwent hysterectomy for benign indications. The study reported that “prevalence of occult corpus uteri, cervical, and ovarian malignancy was 1.44%, 0.60%, and 0.19%, respectively, among women undergoing hysterectomy and it varied by patient age and surgical route” (Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Apr;131[4]:642-51).

As an alternative, Dr. Ridgeway pointed to hysteropexy, which can be performed as a vaginal, laparoscopic, robot, or open procedure.

She highlighted a 2018 systematic review of pelvic organ prolapse surgeries that provided a meta-analysis and clinical practice guidelines. It found that “uterine-preserving prolapse surgeries improve operating time, blood loss, and risk of mesh exposure, compared with similar surgical routes with concomitant hysterectomy and do not significantly change short-term prolapse outcomes” (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Aug;219[2]:129-46.e2).

Dr. Ridgeway reported no relevant disclosures. This meeting was jointly provided by Global Academy for Medical Education and the University of Cincinnati. Global Academy and this news organization are owned by the same company.

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