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Endometrial destruction techniques for heavy menstrual bleeding.

BACKGROUND: Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) is a significant health problem in premenopausal women; it can reduce their quality of life and cause anaemia. First-line therapy has traditionally been medical therapy but this is frequently ineffective. On the other hand, hysterectomy is obviously 100% effective in stopping bleeding but is more costly and can cause severe complications. Endometrial ablation is less invasive and preserves the uterus, although long-term studies have found that the costs of ablative surgery approach the cost of hysterectomy due to the requirement for repeat procedures. A large number of techniques have been developed to 'ablate' (remove) the lining of the endometrium. The gold standard techniques (laser, transcervical resection of the endometrium and rollerball) require visualisation of the uterus with a hysteroscope and, although safe, require skilled surgeons. A number of newer techniques have recently been developed, most of which are less time consuming. However, hysteroscopy may still be required as part of the ablative techniques and some of them must be considered to be still under development, requiring refinement and investigation.

OBJECTIVES: To compare the efficacy, safety and acceptability of methods used to destroy the endometrium to reduce HMB in premenopausal women.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Specialised Register of controlled trials (April 2004). We also searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2004), MEDLINE (1966 to July 2004), EMBASE (1980 to July 2004), Current Contents (1993 to week 38, 2001), Biological Abstracts (1980 to June 2001), PsycLIT (1967 to August 2001), CINAHL (1982 to July 2004) and the metaregister of controlled trials and ISRCTN register (December 2004). We also searched reference lists of articles and contacted pharmaceutical companies and experts in the field.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials comparing different endometrial ablation techniques in women with a complaint of heavy menstrual bleeding without uterine pathology. The outcomes included reduction of heavy menstrual bleeding, improvement in quality of life, operative outcomes, satisfaction with the outcome, complications and need for further surgery or hysterectomy.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: The two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion, assessed trials for quality and extracted data. Attempts were made to contact authors for clarification of data in some trials. Adverse events were only assessed if they were separately measured in the included trials.

MAIN RESULTS: In the comparison of the newer non-hysteroscopic techniques (second generation) with the gold standard hysteroscopic ablative techniques (first generation) overall, surgery was an average of 15 minutes shorter (weighted mean difference (WMD) 14.9, 95% CI 10.1 to 19.7), local anaesthesia was more likely to be employed (odds ratio (OR) 8.3, 95% CI 3.9 to 17.5) and equipment failure was more likely (OR 4.2, 95% CI 1.3 to 13.8) with second-generation ablation. Women undergoing newer ablative procedures were less likely to have fluid overload, uterine perforation, cervical lacerations and hematometra than women undergoing the more traditional type of ablation and resection techniques (OR 0.13, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.5; OR 0.21, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.7; OR 0.12, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.3 and OR 0.25, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.7, respectively). However, women were more likely to have nausea and vomiting and uterine cramping (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.5 to 3.4 and OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.9, respectively). Some differences were also found in amenorrhoea rates and satisfaction rates, but there did not appear to be a trend over time so these results may be due to chance.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Endometrial ablation techniques continue to play an important role in the management of HMB. The rapid development of a number of new methods of endometrial destruction has made systematic comparisons between methods and with the 'gold standard' of transcervical resection of the endometrium (TCRE) difficult. Most of the newer techniques are technically easier than hysteroscopy-based methods to perform. However, uterine perforation, which is the major complication of endometrial ablation, cannot be excluded without hysteroscopy. Overall, the existing evidence suggests that success rates and complication profiles of newer techniques of ablation compare favourably with TCRE, although technical difficulties with new equipment need to be ironed out.

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