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BACKGROUND: Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB), which includes both menorrhagia and metrorrhagia, is an important cause of ill health in women. Surgical treatment of HMB often follows failed or ineffective medical therapy. The definitive treatment is hysterectomy, but this is a major surgical procedure with significant physical and emotional complications, as well as social and economic costs. Several less invasive surgical techniques (e.g. transcervical resection of the endometrium (TCRE), laser approaches) and various methods of endometrial ablation have been developed with the purpose of improving menstrual symptoms by removing or ablating the entire thickness of the endometrium. OBJECTIVES: The objective of this review is to compare the effectiveness, acceptability and safety of techniques of endometrial destruction by any means versus hysterectomy by any means for the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding. SEARCH METHODS: Electronic searches for relevant randomised controlled trials (RCTs) targeted but were not limited to the following: the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group Register of Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and the Cochrane CENTRAL register of trials. Attempts were made to identify trials by examining citation lists of review articles and guidelines and by performing handsearching. Searches were performed in 2007, 2008 and 2013. SELECTION CRITERIA: Included in the review were any RCTs that compared techniques of endometrial destruction by any means with hysterectomy by any means for the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding in premenopausal women. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently searched for studies, extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Risk ratios (RRs) for dichotomous outcomes and mean differences (MDs) for continuous outcomes were estimated from the data. Outcomes analysed included improvement in menstrual blood loss, satisfaction, change in quality of life, duration of surgery and hospital stay, time to return to work, adverse events and requirements for repeat surgery due to failure of the initial surgical treatment. MAIN RESULTS: Eight RCTs that fulfilled the inclusion criteria for this review were identified. For two trials, the review authors identified multiple publications that assessed different outcomes at different postoperative time points for the same women.An advantage in favour of hysterectomy compared with endometrial ablation was observed in various measures of improvement in bleeding symptoms and satisfaction rates. A slightly lower proportion of women who underwent endometrial ablation perceived improvement in bleeding symptoms at one year (RR 0.89, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.85 to 0.93, four studies, 650 women, I(2) = 31%), at two years (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.86 to 0.99, two studies, 292 women, I(2) = 53%) and at four years (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.88 to 0.99, two studies, 237 women, I(2) = 79%). The same group of women also showed improvement in pictorial blood loss assessment chart (PBAC) score at one year (MD 24.40, 95% CI 16.01 to 32.79, one study, 68 women) and at two years (MD 44.00, 95% CI 36.09 to 51.91, one study, 68 women). Repeat surgery resulting from failure of the initial treatment was more likely to be needed after endometrial ablation than after hysterectomy at one year (RR 14.9, 95% CI 5.2 to 42.6, six studies, 887 women, I(2) = 0%), at two years (RR 23.4, 95% CI 8.3 to 65.8, six studies, 930 women, I(2) = 0%), at three years (RR 11.1, 95% CI 1.5 to 80.1, one study, 172 women) and at four years (RR 36.4, 95% CI 5.1 to 259.2, one study, 197 women). Most adverse events, both major and minor, were significantly more likely after hysterectomy during hospital stay. Women who had a hysterectomy were more likely to experience sepsis (RR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.3, four studies, 621 women, I(2) = 62%), blood transfusion (RR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.6, four studies, 751 women, I(2) = 0%), pyrexia (RR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.4, three studies, 605 women, I(2) = 66%), vault haematoma (RR 0.1, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.3, five studies, 858 women, I(2) = 0%) and wound haematoma (RR 0.03, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.5, one study, 202 women) before hospital discharge. After discharge from hospital, the only difference that was reported for this group was a higher rate of infection (RR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.5, one study, 172 women).For some outcomes (such as a woman's perception of bleeding and proportion of women requiring further surgery for HMB), a low GRADE score was generated, suggesting that further research in these areas is likely to change the estimates. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Endometrial resection and ablation offers an alternative to hysterectomy as a surgical treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding. Both procedures are effective, and satisfaction rates are high. Although hysterectomy is associated with longer operating time (particularly for the laparoscopic route), a longer recovery period and higher rates of postoperative complications, it offers permanent relief from heavy menstrual bleeding. The initial cost of endometrial destruction is significantly lower than that of hysterectomy, but, because retreatment is often necessary, the cost difference narrows over time.

Original publication




Journal article


Cochrane Database Syst Rev

Publication Date



Endometrial Ablation Techniques, Female, Humans, Hysterectomy, Hysteroscopy, Menorrhagia, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic