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Best practices for the surgical management of adnexal masses in pregnancy

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An expert details an evidence-based approach



During the 43rd AAGL Global Congress, held November 17–21 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sarah L. Cohen, MD, MPH, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, stepped attendees through diagnosis and surgical management of adnexal masses in pregnancy, noting the approaches backed by the highest-quality data.

The incidence of adnexal masses in pregnancy is 1 in every 600 live births. A mass can be benign or malignant. Among benign masses found in pregnancy are functional cysts, teratomas, and the corpus luteum.

Ultrasound imaging is a valuable component of the work-up, owing to its risk-free nature. Magnetic resonance imaging may be appropriate in selected cases, but gadolinium contrast should be avoided.

In pregnancy, the aim is to limit ionizing radiation to less than 5 to 10 rads to minimize the risk of childhood malignancy/leukemia, with no single imaging study exceeding 5 rads.

Tumor markers may be helpful, but careful interpretation is critical, taking into account the effects of pregnancy itself on CA-125 (which peaks in the first trimester), human chorionic gonadotropin, alpha fetoprotein, inhibin A, and lactate dehydrogenase.

When expectant management may be appropriate
Watchful waiting may be considered for simple cysts less than 6 cm in size, provided the patient is asymptomatic with no signs of malignancy.

Surgery is indicated when the patient is symptomatic, when there is a concern for malignancy, and when a persistent mass exceeds 10 cm in size.

As always, elective surgery is preferable, as emergent surgery in pregnancy is associated with a risk of preterm labor of 22% to 35%.

Optimal timing of surgery
Surgery can be performed safely in any trimester, provided the gynecologist is aware of special concerns. For example, in the first trimester, organogenesis is under way and the corpus luteum is still present. If the corpus luteum is removed, progesterone supplementation is necessary.

When surgery can be postponed to the second trimester, it allows time for possible resolution of the mass.

Mode of surgery
Laparoscopy allows for faster recovery, less pain (and, therefore, lower narcotic exposure to the fetus), and improved maternal ventilation.

Prophylaxis for venous thromboembolism is indicated through the use of pneumatic compression devices and, when appropriate, heparin.

Initial port placement can be performed using a Hassan technique, Veress needle, or optical trocar.

Insufflation pressures of 10 to 15 mm Hg are safe, with intraoperative monitoring of carbon dioxide.

Availability of guidelines
Surgeons should make use of guidelines, when feasible, to guide surgery. For example, the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) publishes guidelines on surgery during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also offers guidelines.

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