Overview

Some women experience heavy bleeding during menstruation or periods that last longer than usual and that can be a problem. Medication is usually the first step in controlling heavy period bleeding, but if it proves ineffective, endometrial ablation may be a recommended alternative. Endometrial ablation is the surgical destruction of the lining of the uterus, which can result in lighter or shorter periods, or even the cessation of periods altogether.

Candidates for Endometrial Ablation

Women who seek to control heavy bleeding and prevent pregnancy are good candidates for endometrial ablation. However, it is not recommended for women past menopause or those with serious medical conditions such as disorders of the uterus or endometrium, endometrial hyperplasia, cancer of the uterus, recent pregnancy, or current uterine infection. Women who undergo endometrial ablation retain their reproductive organs, and should continue to receive regular pap tests and pelvic exams.

Procedure

Endometrial ablation is typically performed as an outpatient surgery or in a doctor’s office with local anesthesia, though general anesthesia may be used in some cases. Some patients may need to have their cervix dilated before the procedure, which can be done through medication or a series of rods. Recovery time can be as short as two hours, depending on the method and type of pain relief medication used. There are several methods of endometrial ablation, including freezing, radiofrequency, microwave, heated fluid, heated balloon, and electrosurgery.

Risks

Risks associated with surgical heavy period bleeding treatment are uncommon but can be severe, including accidental puncture of the uterus, burns to the uterus or bowel, buildup of fluid in the lungs, pulmonary embolism, and accidental laceration of the cervix.

Post-surgery

Side effects are generally minor and include cramping, thin discharge mixed with blood, frequent urination, and nausea. Most women will experience reduced menstrual flow after ablation, and some may stop menstruating altogether. However, younger women may be less likely to respond, and some may require repeat procedures.