Last summer I had an appointment with my OB-GYN to figure out the next step for treating my internal pelvic pain, which she suspected was caused by endometriosis. The pain had significantly ramped up in recent months and was virtually constant. My OB-GYN recommended having a laparoscopy, which she described as a minimally invasive surgery to diagnose and remove endometriosis lesions that might be present in my pelvis. I left that appointment believing that there was only one type of laparoscopic surgery to treat endometriosis.
I was wrong.
The procedure I finally had this past winter (after months of waiting), with a type of laparoscopy called ablation or coagulation. During this procedure, endometrial lesions are burned away with a high-energy heat source, usually a laser. This is the most common type of laparoscopy for endometriosis. Three months after having the surgery, my chronic pelvic pain has never been worse. Ablation was not effective in treating my endometriosis.
However, there is a second kind of laparoscopy for treating endometriosis, called excision. This procedure is less common than ablation, requires more skill, and is more time-consuming.
“Excision removes endometrial implants by cutting them away from the surrounding tissue with scissors, a very fine heat gun or a laser beam…Excision allows the gynecologist to separate the implants from the surrounding tissue, thus ensuring that the entire implant is removed and no endometrial tissue is left.”
The most important difference between these two types of laparoscopic surgeries, according to a new study, is that excision is more effective than ablation. Researchers compared three recent studies that examined the outcomes of ablation versus excision laparoscopies for treating endometriosis. They found that excision laparoscopies, compared to ablation, resulted in:
- a significant reduction in painful periods
- a significant reduction in chronic pelvic pain
- a significant reduction in straining with bowel movements
- a non-significant reduction in painful sex
The researchers concluded that their review “showed significantly greater improvement with laparoscopic excision compared with ablation” in the treatment of endometriosis. I wish I’d known last summer. Now I’m beginning the long process of being referred for excision surgery.
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