Conference Coverage

Don’t leave vaginal hysterectomies behind, surgeon urges



LAS VEGAS – While vaginal hysterectomies are becoming less common, a gynecologic surgeon urges colleagues to reconsider the value of the procedure.

Dr. Roseanne M. Kho Courtesy Cashman Photo

Dr. Roseanne M. Kho

While “younger trainees are seeing fewer vaginal procedures being done and have less confidence to do the procedure,” research suggests that the vaginal approach can offer major benefits, compared with the alternatives, Rosanne M. Kho, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, said at the Pelvic Anatomy and Gynecologic Surgery Symposium.

Dr. Kho pointed to several studies suggesting a decline in vaginal hysterectomies as laparoscopic and robot procedures become more common. One study compared hysterectomy surgery approaches during 2007-2010 and found a sharp rise in robotic procedures (0.5% to 10%) and a big decrease in abdominal procedures (from 54% to 40%). The rate of laparoscopic procedures grew (from 24% to 30%), while vaginal procedures dipped slightly (22% to 20%) (JAMA. 2013 Feb 20;309[7]:689-98). Another study tracked hysterectomy strategies at Pittsburgh’s Magee-Womens Hospital in almost 14,000 women during 2000-2010. It found that vaginal hysterectomy rates fell from 22% to 17% while laparoscopic rates grew remarkably from 3% to 43%. Open procedures fell dramatically from 75% to 36% (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2013 Apr. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2013.01.022).

These findings are “telling me that surgeons are steering away from the vaginal approach because the laparoscopic and robotic approach are much more appealing,” Dr. Koh said at the meeting, which 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.

Specifically, it appears that surgeons think the vaginal hysterectomy is more “challenging” and “cumbersome,” Dr. Kho said, and they lack inadequate training.

Why should vaginal hysterectomy still be considered? Dr. Kho pointed to two pieces of evidence:

  • Expert opinion. A 2017 committee opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists examined routes of hysterectomy in benign disease and declared that, despite the decrease in its use, “evidence supports the opinion that [when feasible] vaginal hysterectomy is associated with better outcomes” than are laparoscopic or abdominal hysterectomy. Also, the decision to perform a salpingo-oophorectomy is not necessarily a contraindication to performing a vaginal hysterectomy, according to the committee opinion (Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Jun;129[6]:e155-e9).The opinion also says, “the vaginal approach is preferred among the minimally invasive approaches. Laparoscopic hysterectomy is a preferable alternative to open abdominal hysterectomy for those patients in whom a vaginal hysterectomy is not indicated or feasible. Although minimally invasive approaches to hysterectomy are the preferred route, open abdominal hysterectomy remains an important surgical option for some patients.”
  • Randomized, controlled studies. A 2015 Cochrane Library systematic review examined 47 randomized, controlled trials and found that “vaginal hysterectomy should be performed whenever possible. Where vaginal hysterectomy is not possible, both a laparoscopic approach and abdominal hysterectomy have their pros and cons, and these should be incorporated in the decision-making process” (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Aug 12. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003677.pub5).

What if a patient has an enlarged uterus? Dr. Kho coauthored a 2017 review that suggested that vaginal hysterectomy may be appropriate in this case. Her report found that in women with large uteri, “vaginal hysterectomy is preferred over laparoscopic and laparoscopic assistance with less operative time and hospital cost. In morbidly obese patients with large uteri, total laparoscopic hysterectomy is superior to vaginal hysterectomy with lesser odds of blood transfusion and lower length of hospital stay” (Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Jun;60[2]:286-95).

What about the removal of fallopian tubes – salpingectomy – during vaginal hysterectomy? Dr. Kho highlighted a 2017 decision analysis that said these procedures are frequently performed for cancer prevention during laparoscopic and open hysterectomies “but [fallopian tubes] are not routinely removed during vaginal hysterectomy because of perceptions of increased morbidity, difficulty, or inadequate surgical training.”

The analysis, however, determined that “salpingectomy should routinely be performed with vaginal hysterectomy because it was the dominant and therefore cost-effective strategy. Complications are minimally increased, but the trade-off with cancer prevention is highly favorable.” (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Nov;217[5]:603.e1-603.e6).

Dr. Kho reported consulting for AbbVie, Olympus, and Applied Medical.

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