PUBLISHED: 5:02 PM on Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Endometrial ablation gives women options
Tired of feeling like a prisoner to her period and frustrated that she couldn't go anywhere without a change of clothing, Brenda finally told her gynecologist she wanted a hysterectomy.

Her doctor instead suggested endometrial ablation, a surgical procedure that damages the uterus lining just enough to prevent it from regenerating cells in response to menstrual cycles.

Brenda, a Topeka, Kan. woman who asked that her last name not be published, said she is thrilled with the results. She went from having heavy, prolonged bleeding to light spotting. About 12 months after the procedure was done, her periods stopped completely.

"It's the best-kept secret around," Brenda said. "Everyone knows what a hysterectomy is."

She then motioned toward a crowd during a restaurant lunch-hour rush.

"I could ask any man here about endometrial ablation, and they wouldn't know what it is," Brenda said. "Probably 95 percent of the women wouldn't know what it is.

"It's just another option."

The option has been available for a few decades, but recent advances in technology have made it quicker, safer and more effective.

Dr. Breck Edds, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Topeka, said he began using the Novasure procedure two to three years ago. The technique, which uses an electrical current to burn the lining, offers a faster recovery and a lower risk of complications than other similar procedures.

In the past, some methods carried a small risk of penetrating the uterus. Edds said the Novasure equipment won't operate if there is a puncture in the lining.

"The energy is limited to the inside lining of the uterus," said Edds, who didn't treat Brenda. "It's very unlikely the energy would spread to the abdominal cavity and damage internal organs."

Edds said there is a 1 percent to 2 percent chance for post-operative infection in the lining.

The procedure itself takes about 80 seconds or less, Edds said. Total time commitment, including pre- and post-operative work, is between 3 1/2 and 4 hours.

Statistically, between 60 percent and 70 percent of women either stop having periods or have negligible bleeding following any type of endometrial ablation. Another 20 percent experience mild to moderate bleeding. One in 10 women will see no benefit.

Edds said he has never had a Novasure patient who didn't see some relief.

Many women, like Brenda, are so happy with the results that they tell their family and friends about the procedure.

That is how Bev Powell, of Topeka, learned she had more options.

"I had visited several gynecologists over the last few years and was told birth control pills or a hysterectomy were my choices," Powell said. "A co-worker told me about the procedure because she had great results from her endometrial ablation three years ago."

Powell said her periods, which typically lasted three weeks, were so heavy that they adversely affected her quality of life. She couldn't go for more than 35 to 40 minutes without worrying about her clothes being stained, and she became anemic. Sleeping through the night also became difficult.

She spoke with her doctor and had the Novasure procedure done in October. Powell said her periods immediately stopped and that she was able to reclaim her life.

She now encourages other women in similar circumstances to consider their options.

"It's not just because you don't want to have a period anymore," Powell said. "It's because you have serious problems. You have a life outside the bathroom."