- Last Updated: January 24, 2017
Adenomyosis occurs when tissue that usually lines the uterus grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. Like endometriosis, where the uterine lining implants outside the uterus, adenomyosis can cause pain and heavy bleeding.
The two conditions are distinct, but many women with adenomyosis also have endometriosis. Adenomyosis is a common condition that primarily affects middle-aged women or women who have had children. It can appear in two forms, a focal and a diffuse presentation. The focal presentation is where the growth of the tissue is in a readily defined area of the uterus, and this can easily be mistaken for uterine fibroids. The diffuse presentation is where the growth is widespread and diffusely defined. The cause of adenomyosis is not known.
Treatment of adenomyosis depends partly on the presence and severity of symptoms. Because the condition usually disappears after menopause, treatment also depends on how close a woman is to that stage. Women who have no symptoms and are nearing menopause may not receive treatment at all. For symptomatic and younger women, treatment options include oral medication, surgery, and recently there is some evidence that uterine artery embolization may be useful as well.
Patients might receive non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, for pain relief. Administration of NSAIDs two to three days before the start of a menstrual period can lessen blood flow and relieve pain. Patients also might take hormonal therapies, such as oral contraceptives, patches, or vaginal rings, to control the menstrual cycle and reduce pain and heavy bleeding.
For women with severe symptoms, hysterectomy, or surgical removal of the uterus, is the only treatment option for cure. This surgery can be done through an incision in the abdomen or vagina. It also can be done laparoscopically, where the adenomyosis is seen with and extracted through a small incision.
Uterine Artery Embolization
In some cases, adenomyosis might be treated by uterine artery embolization. In this procedure, a clinician inserts a small catheter through the femoral artery in the groin. Tiny particles sent through the tube block the vessels that supply blood to the adenomyosis, causing this tissue to shrink.
Focused Ultrasound Treatment
Focused ultrasound offers a potentially non-invasive treatment for adenomyosis. Guided by ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging, the physician directs a focused beam of acoustic energy through the patient’s skin, fat layer, and abdominal muscles toward the adenomyosis. This beam heats and destroys the adenomyositic tissue without damaging nearby tissues or structures.
As a potentially non-invasive method, focused ultrasound may offer benefits in the treatment of adenomyosis, including:
- a shorter recovery time, with the patient often returning to work and other activities within a day;
- a lower rate of complications;
- rapid and durable resolution of adenomyosis symptoms; and
- the treatment has the potential to preserve fertility, because the uterus is not removed. Case studies have reported that women have conceived and had healthy babies after focused ultrasound.
Recent work has shown that improvements in care have enabled better results in both focal and diffuse adenomyosis care. The team ensured 10mm margins between the endometrium and the uterine wall, and there were no major differences between the focal and diffuse care in terms of overall response. The success rates for care in 2008 were 87%, and the results for the recent study for both focal and diffuse cases were 99.5%.
At present, there are two ongoing international clinical trials investigating the use of focused ultrasound for adenomyosis.
Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement
The InSightec ExAblate system has received approval in Europe for the treatment of adenomyosis.
To the best of our knowledge, focused ultrasound treatment of adenomyosis is not universally reimbursed by medical insurers in the US.
Adenomysosis Advice Association aims to increase awareness and provides patients with health information, information about research, and online support.
Fibroid Relief is a patient forum, with blog posts, patient stories, educational information, clinical trial updates, and information about fibroid and adenomyosis treatment.
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