Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Endometrial ablation

Definition

Endometrial ablation is a surgery or procedure done to damage the lining of the uterus in order to minimize heavy or prolonged menstrual flow. This lining is called the endometrium.

Alternative Names

Hysteroscopy - endometrial ablation; Laser thermal ablation; Endometrial ablation - radiofrequency; Endometrial ablation - thermal balloon ablation; Rollerball ablation; Hydrothermal ablation; Novasure ablation

Description

Endometrial ablation is a procedure used to treat abnormal bleeding by destroying tissue in the uterine lining. The tissue can be removed using:

  • High frequency radio waves
  • Laser energy
  • Heated fluids
  • Balloon therapy
  • Freezing
  • Electrical current

Some types of procedures are done using a thin, lighted tube called a hysteroscope that sends images of the inside of the womb to a video monitor. Most of the time general anesthesia is used so you will be asleep and pain free.

However, newer techniques can be done without using a hysteroscope. For these, a shot of numbing medicine is injected into the nerves around the cervix to block pain.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

This procedure can treat heavy or irregular periods. Your health care provider will likely have tried other treatments first, such as hormone medicines or an IUD.

Endometrial ablation will not be used if you may want to become pregnant in the future. Though this procedure does not prevent you from getting pregnant, it may reduce your chances of getting pregnant. Reliable contraception is important in all women who get the procedure.

If a woman gets pregnant after an ablation procedure, the pregnancy will often miscarry or be extremely high risk because of the scar tissue in the uterus.

Risks

Risks of hysteroscopy include:

  • Hole (perforation) in the wall of the womb
  • Scarring of the lining of the womb
  • Damage to the cervix
  • Need for surgery to repair damage

Risks of ablation procedures vary depending on the method used. Risks may include:

  • Absorption of excess fluid
  • Allergic reaction
  • Pain or cramping following the procedure
  • Burns or tissue damage from procedures using heat

Risks of any pelvic surgery include:

  • Damage to nearby organs or tissues
  • Blood clots, which could travel to the lungs and be deadly (rare)

Risks of anesthesia include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Breathing problems
  • Lung infection

Risks of any surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding

Before the Procedure

A biopsy of the endometrium or lining of the uterus will be performed in the weeks prior to the procedure. Younger women may be treated with a hormone that blocks estrogen from being made by the body for 1 to 3 months before the procedure.

Your provider may prescribe medicine to open your cervix. This makes it easier to insert the scope. You need to take this medicine about 8 to 12 hours before your procedure.

Before any surgery:

  • Always tell your provider about all the medicines you take. This includes vitamins, herbs, and supplements.
  • Tell your provider if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or other health problems.

In the 2 weeks before your procedure:

  • You may need to stop taking drugs that make it hard for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), clopidogrel (Plavix), and warfarin (Coumadin). Your provider will tell you what you should or should not take.
  • Ask your provider which medicines you can take on the day of your procedure.
  • Tell your provider if you have a cold, flu, fever, herpes outbreak, or other sickness.
  • You will be told when to arrive at the hospital. Ask if you need to arrange for someone to drive you home.

On the day of the procedure:

  • You may be asked not to drink or eat anything 6 to 12 hours before your procedure.
  • Take any approved drugs with a small sip of water.

After the Procedure

You may go home the same day. Rarely, you may need to stay overnight.

  • You may have menstrual-like cramps and light vaginal bleeding for 1 to 2 days. Ask your provider if you can take over-the-counter pain medicine for the cramping.
  • You may have a watery discharge for up to several weeks.
  • You can return to normal daily activities within 1 to 2 days. DO NOT have sex until your provider says it is OK.
  • Any biopsy results are usually available with 1 to 2 weeks.

Your provider will tell you the results of your procedure.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The lining of your uterus heals by scarring. Women will most often have less menstrual bleeding after this procedure. Up to 30% to 50% of women will completely stop having periods. This result is more likely in older women.

References

Baggish MS. Minimally invasive nonhysteroscopic endometrial ablation. In: Baggish MS, Karram MM, eds. Atlas of pelvic anatomy and gynecologic surgery. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 110.

Carlson SM, Goldberg J, Lentz GM. Hysteroscopy and laparoscopy: indications, contraindications, and complications. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 10.

Review Date:10/4/2016
Reviewed By:John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

adam.com

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Health
Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
         Yes
         No
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?
         Yes
         No