Master Class

Managing the Septate Uterus


A complete septum is considered a rare phenomenon and may best be surgically treated only by providers with advanced hysteroscopic experience. In this case, visualization of the ectocervix must first be maximized. The initiation of the transection can be performed using a handheld instrument such as scissors, blade, or electrosurgical pencil and then continued hysteroscopically in a manner similar to transection of a partial septum.

Concomitant laparoscopic visualization can confirm prior findings revealed by imaging, provide assurance that the bowel is not adherent to the peritoneal surface of the uterus, and reveal proximity of the hysteroscopic instruments to the uterine serosal surface, thus decreasing risk of perforation during the procedure. Additionally, blanching of the uterine serosa or visualization of the hysteroscopic light can illustrate proximity to the serosal surface.

Coexisting pelvic pathology also can be diagnosed and treated at the time of the hysteroscopic procedure, as in the case of endometriosis.

Postop Care, Follow-Up

Postoperative care and follow-up must include strategies for preventing intrauterine adhesion formation and for confirming success of the procedure.

Multiple methods, from the placement of an intrauterine device or catheter to estrogen supplementation, have been proposed to minimize or prevent intrauterine adhesion formation following hysteroscopic septoplasty.

The IUD initially used for the purpose of separating endometrial surfaces over the operative site during healing was the Lippe’s loop – an inert device consisting of a thin polyethylene wire bent into a series of "S" shapes. It was removed from the U.S. market in the 1980s and is no longer widely available. The two currently approved IUDs – copper-based or progestin-containing – both raise concerns postoperatively, as copper can cause inflammation and progestins cause thinning of the endometrium lining.

For these reasons and in the setting of poor supportive data, IUDs are no longer used following hysteroscopic septoplasty.

Intrauterine catheters or stents are sometimes used following septoplasty under the same philosophy espoused by the IUD proponents – that adhesion formation can be prevented by the physical separation of endometrial surfaces during healing.

The surgeon should be extremely mindful of intrauterine pressure when a stent is placed, as the theoretical risk of uterine rupture exists if the myometrium is significantly disrupted during the procedure. Stents include a pediatric Foley balloon or specific intrauterine devices sold commercially.

Supplemental estrogen may be used to stimulate endometrial proliferation and, therefore, promote healing over the operative site. Multiple regimens exist and are sometimes paired with progestins. No standard regimen is reported in the literature and, thus, this choice depends on one’s familiarity and comfort.

Dr. Megan Daw is an AAGL/SRS fellow in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. She matriculated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California at San Francisco in June 2010. Dr. Daw said that she has no disclosures to report.

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