CASE Patient desires prolapse repair
A 65-year-old postmenopausal patient (G3P3) presents to your office with symptoms of a vaginal bulge for more than 1 year. She has no urinary incontinence symptoms and no bowel dysfunction symptoms. On examination, you diagnose stage 2 uterovaginal prolapse with both anterior and apical defects. The patient declines expectant and pessary management and desires surgery, but she states that she feels her uterus “is important for me to keep, as my babies grew in there and it is part of me.” She denies any family or personal history of breast, endometrial, or ovarian cancer and has no history of abnormal cervical cancer screening or postmenopausal bleeding. What are the options for this patient?
Who is the appropriate hysteropexy patient, and how do we counsel her?
Uterine prolapse is the third leading cause of benign hysterectomy, with approximately 70,000 procedures performed each year in the United States. It has long been acknowledged that the uterus is a passive bystander to the prolapse process,1 but modern practice often involves a hysterectomy as part of addressing apical prolapse. However, more and more uterine-preserving surgeries are being performed, with one study showing an increase from 1.8% to 5% from 2002 and 2012.2
When presented with the option to keep or remove their uterus during the time of prolapse surgery, 36% of patients indicated that they would prefer to keep their uterus with similar outcomes while 21% would still prefer uterine preservation even if outcomes were inferior compared with hysterectomy.3 Another study showed that 60% of patients would decline concurrent hysterectomy if there were equal surgical outcomes,4 and popular platforms, such as Health magazine (www.health.com) and AARP magazine (www.aarp.org), have listed benign hysterectomy as a “top surgery to avoid.”
Patients desire uterine preservation for many reasons, including concerns about sexual function and pleasure, the uterus being important to their sense of identity or womanhood, and concerns around menopausal symptoms. Early patient counseling and discussion of surgical goals can help clinicians fully understand a patient’s thoughts toward uterine preservation. Women who identified their uterus as important to their sense of self had a 28.2-times chance of preferring uterine preservation.3 Frequently, concerns about menopausal symptoms are more directly related to hormones and ovary removal, not uterus removal, but clinicians should be careful to also counsel patients on the increased risk of menopause in the 5 years after hysterectomy, even with ovarian preservation.5
There are some patients for whom experts do not recommend uterine preservation.6 Patients with an increased risk of cervical or endometrial pathology should be counseled on the benefits of hysterectomy. Additionally, patients who have abnormal uterine bleeding from benign pathology should consider hysterectomy to treat these issues and avoid future workups (TABLE). For postmenopausal patients with recent postmenopausal bleeding, we encourage hysterectomy. A study of patients undergoing hysterectomy at the time of prolapse repair found a rate of 13% unanticipated endometrial pathology with postmenopausal bleeding and negative preoperative workup.7
At this time, a majority of clinicians consider the desire for future fertility to be a relative contraindication to surgical prolapse repair and advise conservative management with pessary until childbearing is complete. This is reasonable, given the paucity of safety data in subsequent pregnancies as well as the lack of prolapse outcomes after those pregnancies.8,9 Lastly, cervical elongation is considered a relative contraindication, as it represents a risk for surgical failure.10,11 This may be counteracted with trachelectomy at the time of hysteropexy or surgeries such as the Manchester repair, which involve a trachelectomy routinely,12 but currently there is no strong evidence for this as routine practice.
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