Endometriosis: A Recap…
Endometriosis occurs when endometrium tissues which line the uterus mistakenly grow outside of the uterus. These tissues shed and bleed with menstruation causing pain, scarring and adhesions (scar tissue) outside the womb, or, indeed, wherever they grow.
As we know, there is no cure for endometriosis; it is a matter of tissue growing where is shouldn’t, and, unfortunately, there is no pill for that! There are several available treatment options that may be successful in treating pain and shrinking endometrium tissues, (contraceptive pills, hormone therapy, IUDs) but these may not be entirely successful and the only way to get a conclusive diagnosis is by undergoing laparoscopic surgery.
What Does the Procedure Involve?…
Laparoscopies are always carried out under general anaesthetic, meaning the patient is sedated throughout and won’t feel any pain. During the procedure, your surgeon will make a small incision in near your belly button and fill your abdomen with gas to create space and get a better view inside. Next, a thin tube with a video camera (laparoscope) is inserted to look directly at the internal tissue. The surgeon will be looking for scarring on your uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and other organs. They can then remove or destroy any visible endometriosis implants and scar tissue that may be causing pain or infertility using one of various techniques, including cutting and removing tissue (excision) or destroying it with a laser beam or electric current (electrocautery). After the procedure, the surgeon closes the incision with a few stitches and usually there is little or no scarring. Depending on how much endometriosis needs to be removed, the procedure can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours, but is usually completed in under an hour.
What to Expect Before Your Surgery…
- As with any surgery, you will be advised not to eat or drink for 8 hours before a laparoscopy because of the anaesthetic.
- You will have a pre-op assessment with your doctor some time before your surgery during which you will be able to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.
- Although a laparoscopy is commonly a day-case procedure done at an outpatient facility, you may need to stay overnight after the surgery for monitoring or further treatment, so it’s always a good idea to pack an overnight bag with some essentials and home comforts, just in case.
- Remember that you probably won’t be able to shower for 48 hours after a laparoscopy, so make sure you do this before going to the hospital.
- You will not be allowed to drive for 24 hours following anaesthesia, so, if possible, bring someone with you who can drive you home and take care of you.
- You may feel cold, dizzy or sick after the operation, and, though you will of course be given painkillers in hospital, your abdomen will be very sore when you wake up. Bring a pillow and soft clothes for the car journey back home.
- Be prepared for some nausea and sickness after your op. If you’re worried about sickness, speak to your doctor as they can give you mediation to help with this.
- During the operation, your abdomen will be filled with carbon dioxide to help lift the adnominal wall. This is completely safe and painless, but following the surgery this excess gas can cause some discomfort. It is nothing to worry about and will disappear within a couple of days, but some people find that peppermint oil or tea help to ease the symptoms.
- Most people experience vaginal bleeding after the operation, but you should contact your doctor immediately if this bleeding is excessive.
- Gentle movement will help to remove excess gas of your body - but take it easy! Remember that you’ll have some stitches, so be very careful when bending or stretching.
- You’ll probably feel quite tired and weak for at least the first few days after surgery. This is completely normal, so rest and focus on your recovery. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about anything or having any issues managing your symptoms.
- It is also normal to experience emotional ups and downs in the days following your surgery.
Most importantly, try to relax and be kind to yourself - it is a big deal!