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Hysterectomy and endometriosis
Because endometriosis symptoms do not always appear, or may be caused by other conditions, a diagnosis cannot be based on symptoms alone. Laparoscopy, an invasive diagnostic procedure, is the only definitive method for diagnosing endometriosis. However, a trial using hormonal drug may be used to confirm or rule out endometriosis.
After collecting your symptom report and medical history, the doctor will perform a physical and pelvic exam. During the pelvic exam, the doctor will evaluate the size and position of the ovaries and check for tender masses or nodules behind the cervix.
Diagnostic laparoscopy is used to confirm a suspected diagnosis of endometriosis and to evaluate the severity of the condition. It may also be used to treat endometriosis. During laparoscopy, the surgeon determines the number, size, and location of endometrial implants and adhesions. This information can help in staging endometriosis and in making treatment decisions.
The procedure involves the doctor making a small incision in the abdomen, and inserting a small thin fiber optic tube (the laparoscope). The laparoscope is equipped with a small telescopic lens, which enables the doctor view the uterus, ovaries, tubes, and peritoneum (lining of the pelvis) on a video monitor. Laparoscopy normally requires a general anesthetic, although the patient can go home the same day. [For more information on laparoscopy, see the "Conservative Surgery" section of this report.]
An ultrasound is performed in cases where other conditions are suspected, such as uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, or ectopic pregnancy. This non-invasive imaging technique can detect endometriomas, cysts that are usually located on the ovaries and filled with thick dark blood. Ultrasound can also pick up cysts larger than 1 cm (about 1/3 inch), but will miss smaller cysts, or small and shallow endometrial implants on the surface of ovaries, or on the peritoneum (lining of the pelvis). Other imaging techniques, such as computed tomography (CT) scanning or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may occasionally be used.
Many conditions cause pelvic pain. In many cases, the cause is unknown, and the condition often resolves on its own. However, some causes of pelvic pain can be serious and should be ruled out during a work-up for endometriosis.
Primary Dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea is recurrent pelvic pain associated with menstruation. Dysmenorrhea is common in many women. [For more information, see In-Depth Report #100: Menstrual disorders.]
Adenomyosis. A condition called adenomyosis occurs when nodules (knots) of endometrial tissue develop within the deep muscle layers of the uterus. This disorder is often classified with endometriosis, but adenomyosis is a different disease. (Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows and functions outside the uterus.) Adenomyosis is a significant cause of severe pelvic pain and menstrual irregularities. It typically occurs in women who have uterine fibroids, women age 40 - 50, and women who have had children. Women who have had surgery for endometriosis, yet continue to suffer from menstrual and pelvic pain, may actually have adenomyosis. [For more information, see In-Depth Report #73: Uterine fibroids.]
Other Causes of Pelvic Pain. Many conditions cause pelvic pain that may or may not be related to menstruation. Some causes of pelvic pain can be serious and should be ruled out include:
Conditions that may mimic symptoms of endometriosis but which are unrelated to problems in the reproductive organs include:
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