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Endometrial Ablation: Procedure, Recovery & Side Effects

Instructor: Virginia Rawls

Virginia has a master' degree in Education and a bachelors in Sports Medicine/athletic Training

Endometrial ablation is a medical procedures that helps women who suffer from abnormal uterine bleeding. The lesson below outlines what an ablation is, why it is done, basics about the procedure and the recovery and side effects of having the procedure done.

What is Endometrial Ablation?

An endometrial ablation is a medical procedure where the lining of the uterus is destroyed. Before we get into what an endometrial ablation is, you need make sure that you are familiar with the female reproductive system.

The inner lining of the uterus is called the endometrium. Every month the endometrium becomes thick in preparation for pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy, then the lining is shed, which causes the menstrual bleeding. The endometrial lining also helps to keep the sides of the uterus from sticking together.

uterus

In some women bleeding is excessively heavy or occurs in-between cycles. Heavy menstruation can lead to anemia in patients (a lack of enough healthy red blood cells). Bleeding that is not associated with menstruation is called DUB, or dysfunctional uterine bleeding. This term is used because the bleeding is not a product of the monthly preparations of the uterus for pregnancy. The development of polyps or other abnormal tissue can also lead to abnormal uterine bleeding. Now, let's get back to the procedure.

If patients are having heavy periods, DUB, or abnormal tissues growing in their uterus then the removal of the endometrium could give them relief from their symptoms. Because the lining of the uterus is being destroyed, this procedure is not recommended for anyone who wants the ability to become pregnant. It is also not recommended for patients who were recently pregnant, have uterine cancer, or have gone through menopause.

Procedure

Endometrial ablation can be done in the doctor's office or in the operating room. The size of the patients uterus, severity of their condition and patients preference are only a few factors that help determine which treatment option is best and if the procedure can be done in the office or needs to be done in the operation room.

There are many options for how the ablation can be done. Extreme heat ablation, extreme cold ablation, electrocautery ablation, radio frequency ablation, and microwave energy ablation can all be used to destroy the endometrial tissues.

Regardless of which of the above methods is used, how the treatment is done is the same. Once the patient is in the room and anesthetized, a small instrument is inserted into the vagina, past the cervix and into the uterus. Next, a small camera is usually inserted in the same manner to give the surgeon visualization of the inside of the uterus.

Most of the time, the uterus will have a pink color and spots of red in many places. These red spots are where the uterus is actively bleeding. This is important so that the surgeon can see how the uterus looks before treatment.

At this point the treatment will be done. Once the treatment is done, the surgeon will again insert the small camera into the uterus. Now, the uterus will usually have a white appearance. This is because the tissue has just been destroyed. Seeing this color difference tells the surgeon that the treatment hit all portions of the endometrium.

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