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Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2009 Sep;146(1):15-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2009.05.007. Epub 2009 May 30.

Repetitive surgery for recurrent symptomatic endometriosis: what to do?

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Milan, Istituto Luigi Mangiagalli, Via Commenda 12-20122 Milan, Italy.


In spite of the increasing number of operative laparoscopies performed for endometriosis associated pelvic pain, postoperative symptomatic recurrences are very common. Reoperation is often considered the best treatment option, but the extent and duration of the effect of second-line surgery is still unclear. The best available evidence has been reviewed in order to define the results of repetitive conservative surgery, the effects of pelvic denervating procedures and postoperative medical treatments, as well as the long-term outcome of definitive surgery. Because of the paucity of published data, estimating the real risk of symptomatic recurrence and need for reoperation after repetitive conservative surgery for endometriosis is very difficult. Based on the limited information available, the long-term outcome appears suboptimal, with a cumulative probability of pain recurrence between 20% and 40%, and of a further surgical procedure between 15% and 20%. These figures are probably an underestimate related to drawbacks in study design, exclusions of dropouts, and publication bias and should be considered with caution. Systematic complementary performance of denervating procedures in addition to reoperation cannot be recommended, as only a few symptomatic patients complain of predominantly midline, hypo-gastric pain. The outcome of hysterectomy for endometriosis-associated pain at medium-term follow-up seems quite satisfactory. Nevertheless, about 15% of patients had persistent symptoms, and 3-5% experienced worsening of pain. Concomitant bilateral oophorectomy reduced the risk of reoperation due to recurrent pelvic pain by six times. However, at least one gonad should be preserved in young women, especially in those with objections to the use of oestrogen-progestogens. Medical treatment appears to have limited and inconsistent effects when used for only a few months after conservative procedures. Data on the benefit of prolonged drug regimens with oral contraceptives or progestogen are lacking. The risk of recurrence of endometriosis during hormone replacement therapy seems marginal if combined preparations or tibolone are used and oestrogen-only treatments are avoided. The opportune surgical solution in women with recurrent symptoms after previous conservative procedures for endometriosis should be based on the desire for conception as well as on psychological characteristics. Studies on surgical management of recurrent rectovaginal endometriosis are warranted, due to the peculiar technical difficulties as well as the high risk of complications associated with this challenging disease form.

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