Endometrial ablation may be an alternative to hysterectomy

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Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 5:12 pm

Heavy bleeding is one of the most common problems women report to their doctors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many women believe they either have to put up with it as “part of being a woman” or have a hysterectomy. However, treatment for heavy periods is no longer an automatic hysterectomy.

Today, women have options such as endometrial ablation, a minor outpatient procedure that does not involve any incisions. “It is a simple procedure that can be performed on an outpatient basis or in some cases an office setting with just local anesthesia,” said Richard Salsman, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Women’s Health Group in Marion. “It is a much safer alternative to hysterectomy as the surgical and anesthesia risks are much smaller.”

Dr. Salsman, his Marion colleague Gregory Simolke, MD, and their counterparts at the Morganton office of Women’s Health Group, have been offering endometrial ablation for several years.

When women come to the gynecologist seeking help with heavy menstrual bleeding, several possible causes must be ruled out first. “Any woman with excessive menstrual bleeding should be evaluated to exclude a serious medical condition,” Dr. Salsman said.

Cancer, hormonal imbalance, non-cancerous tumors in the uterus, and infection are all possible causes of heavy menstrual bleeding. As for another culprit of heavy bleeding, endometriosis, Dr. Salsman said “Ablation is not a cure but may alleviate some of the symptoms.”

Once more serious issues have been ruled out, the gynecologist may recommend endometrial ablation.

During the procedure, the gynecologist inserts a device into the uterus that uses radio frequency energy to destroy the lining of the uterus, the usual source of abnormal bleeding. Once the procedure is complete, the device is removed. The entire process takes about five minutes.

The overwhelming majority of patients report lighter, shorter, more predictable periods after the procedure. This may help women who have pain with their period and women who suffer from bad cases of PMS. “The satisfaction rate after the procedure is 85 percent to 90 percent,” Dr. Salsman said. “Many women either never have another period after the procedure or only 2 or 3 days of spotting each month.”

Heavy bleeding affects more than 10 million American women, one out of every five, according to the CDC. Studies show that this problem can affect women’s physical, emotional, and social health. It can also lead to additional health problems such as anemia, a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells.

Endometrial ablation is appropriate for any pre-menopausal woman who is finished with child bearing, and it is covered by many insurance plans. “The goal of the procedure is to greatly decrease the amount of bleeding a woman has each month to acceptable levels,” Dr. Salsman said. “Most women can return to completely normal activities including returning to work within a day or so.”

Women’s Health Group in Marion is located at 20 South Medical Court. To make an appointment, please call 652-3019. Women’s Health Group in Morganton is located in the Medical Office Building at Grace Hospital, Suite 400. To make an appointment at the Morganton office, please call 580-4661.

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