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Monday, 16 September 2013

Lax Perineum or Loose Vagina

When my patients tell me that they don't feel the same below after delivery of a baby, especially after a few babies, I understand what they mean. The sensation of a lax or loose vagina is manifest in several ways. There may be a feeling of heaviness below, loss of sexual sensation during intercourse, leakage of urine especially when exerting pressure such as coughing or during running, loss of control in defaecation or constipation. Sometimes it is the husband who will say that the wife feels loose during intercourse. Vaginal deliveries can result in a lax perineum and prolapse of the vagina and uterus. It usually occurs when the babies tend to be big or the delivery is assisted. During delivery, the tissues that support the vaginal wall known as the fascia which is made up mainly of collagen tissue may be torn, and although not visible can result in weakening of the vaginal wall. As a result, the bladder and rectum may protrude into the vagina, and the uterus may descend into the vaginal introitus. Kegel excercises and physiotherapy have a minimal effect in improving vaginal prolapse although there is no harm in trying these as the first line management of prolapse. Surgery can be performed with a lazer or by conventional surgery to repair and tighten the vaginal opening. This can be done as a day procedure in some cases. Where prolapse is more severe, repair can be aided with a mesh which is inserted underneath the vaginal mucosa for added support. The most recent advances involve a soft polypropylene mesh developed by AMS known as `Elevate' and these may be used for both front and back wall of the vagina as well as prolapse of the top of the vagina.







Sunday, 15 September 2013

Large fibroid and Urine Retention

One of the effects of fibroids is urine retention. I had a patient recently with increasing difficulty with passing urine over several months. Eventually she ended up in the emergency unit with acute retention of urine and had to have her bladder catheterised. If the fibroid is in the back of the uterus and large, the entire uterus is pulled backwards. This results in the urethra ( the passage through which a woman passes urine ) being stretched and `thinned out' eventually blocking the passage of urine. My patient had an 8cm fibroid in addition there were other smaller fibroids which were also causing her heavy periods. Removal of the fibroids gave her instant relief from this problem. Not all fibroids need be removed but if fibroids are causing symptoms or are significantly large then surgery is indicated. Although medication is able to shrink fibroids, it is generally used to reduce it to a size that it can be taken out through a laparoscope. In the case of my patient, the acute nature of the fibroid meant that she could not wait for medical treatment to take effect and therefore had it removed through a conventional incision.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial Cancer is a cancer of the inner lining of the womb. It is the next most common cancer after the ovary but has a much better prognosis and survival rate. Endometrial cancers tend to be less aggressive and are almost always related to high and prolonged exposure to oestrogen. Which is why they are more common and typically affect women who are "fat, fair, and fifty". Late menopause, obesity predispose to endometrial cancer. The good news is that they are often detected early and when treated by surgery in the early stage have a 95% chance of 5 year survival or cure.
My patient presented at age 52 with bleeding in between her periods. Her GP had given her hormones to try and regulate her menstrual flow and stop the bleeding without success. When I saw her, an ultrasound scan of her uterus was unremarkable except that the lining of her womb was unusually thick. This raised my suspicions, and I immediately arranged to do a hysteroscopy (viewing the cavity of the womb with a telescope) and performing a biopsy. The hysterscope enabled me to view and locate a very small suspicious area on the lining. Now in the olden days, the standard procedure would be to perform a dilatation and curettage or scrapping of the womb. This small nidus would almost certainly have been missed with such a blind procedure and produced a false negative result. A biopsy of the suspicious area confirmed a stage I(a) endometrial cancer. Over the next week, I performed a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy for my patient, taking out her womb, tubes and ovaries. No further treatment was necessary and I could confidantly tell her that she had a very good prognosis and was indeed a very lucky woman. The message to remember is to have any form of bleeding per vaginum or change in periods investigated thoroughly and not delay having your annual check-ups. A vigilant gynaecologist will pick up anything that could progress to something more sinister and not delay a cure. Avoid taking soy products (not fermented soy) as they are high in plant oestrogens, maintain a healthy weight through excercise.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Adenomyosis/ Endometriosis ( Heavy + Painful periods )

Adenomyosis is a very common condition and is very easily missed in a gynaecological examination. It is a condition in which the endometrium which lines the cavity of the womb somehow penetrates the muscle protruding into the myometrium. It can be focal ie isolated pockets in the womb or diffuse and extensive causing the whole womb to enlarge.
The most common symptoms are heavy and painful periods. This condition commonly coexists with other disorders such as fibroids, endometriosis and polyps. No one knows the cause, but it is thought to be due to an imbalance in the hormones. The pain during periods is due to the ectopic endometrial cells bleeding into the muscle of the womb and the heavy periods due to the whole surface area of the womb being enlarged.
It is typically diagnosed on ultrasound scan of the pelvis and on MRI.
I recently performed a removal of the adenomyosis on a 39 year old lady. She was single. This was unusual as adenomyosis most often affects those who have had pregnancies or previous surgery to the womb. She came with the problem of severe period pains and backache, pain radiating down to her thigh and leg. At the time of surgery, the back of the womb was filled with a large adenomyoma and the womb was stuck to her rectum and intestines at the back. She in addition had endometriotic cyst of her ovary and a polyp in the cavity of her womb. The surgery was performed through a conventional open method rather than through key-hole surgery as it would be impossible to remove the adenomyoma entirely otherwise and thereby risking a higher chance of recurrence.
Surgery would be the primary form of treatment in severe cases and very often if the patient has completed her family a hysterectomy would be recommended. In less severe cases, other forms of treatment can be tried such as Lucrin injections to induce a chemical menopause, inserting a mirena device.