Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Failed medical management or a failure to comply with accepted guidelines?

Only 4 months after an in utero fetal demise at 14 weeks, I had a first trimester miscarriage at 8 weeks. I had conceived (naturally again) after only a month of trying and the pregnancy was suspected by chance at a follow up for my previous miscarriage only a few days after implantation. I’d had my next ultrasounds at 5 weeks, just under 8 weeks-where a heart rate of 151 bpm was detected- and then at 9 weeks, where there was no longer any cardiac activity.
 As if this was not bad enough, I was again faced with how to cope with the physical side of this loss without incurring damage to my previously scarred uterus. Misoprostol was of course my method of choice. I learned that I would have to be admitted as an in-patient according to this hospital’s treatment protocol, although I know that in other countries misoprostol management of first trimester miscarriage (and abortion) are routinely done on an out-patient basis. This of course would increase the cost of the procedure. Once I was admitted, I learned that I would be given the same protocol as for second trimester terminations. This is because the hospital only has protocols in place using misoprostol for late abortions.

I should clarify that in Australia, misoprostol is rarely used for first trimester miscarriage. This was an exception for them and I am relieved that I was not forced into having a D&C which caused this whole debacle to begin with.

What worried me was that the accepted dosage for second trimester terminations (400 mcg every 3 hours up to 5 times) is lower per administration than that recommended for first trimester miscarriage. According to guidelines published in a supplement to the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics (2007, vol. 99) a woman with a first trimester miscarriage should be given 2 doses of 800 mcg of misoprostol (vaginally) 3 hours apart. This is because early in a pregnancy, there are fewer prostaglandin receptors to which misoprostol binds than later in pregnancy.

While I received the same protocol for my previous second trimester miscarriage as for second trimester abortion, the accepted protocols for these two indications are much more similar and was thus it was more effective. However, this dosage is not considered effective for first trimester pregnancy failure and with good reason, as I subsequently found out: it simply does not work. On the first day I received 5 doses but none of them produced contractions that were strong enough to evacuate the uterus. There seemed to be less uterine contractions and bleeding after the first few administrations as though the effects were wearing off. I was given a 12 hour break before starting again. I requested that the drug be given orally instead this time. I had even less of a reaction, not even nausea or diarrhea which are commonly reported side effects of oral misoprostol. The following day, I agreed to hysteroscopic removal with my Asherman’s syndrome specialist.

According to this specialist, my cervix was slightly dilated but not enough for the gestational sac to pass through. The gestational sac had implanted slightly low in the uterine cavity (future placenta previa?), and in the anterior wall, in a region where I’d had scarring from my D&C and adhesions. Tissue obtained during the hysteroscopy did not grow in culture so I was unable to find out the karyotype of the embryo, or subsequently, the gender. It is possible that I miscarried because by chance the embryo implanted in a region where I’d had previous scarring and possible fibrosis, and the blood supply was not sufficient to maintain the pregnancy. If so, this is much more upsetting than if the baby was chromosomally abnormal and would not have survived anyway. I will never know for sure what caused this miscarriage, but an Asherman’s related cause cannot be either confirmed or ruled out.

It is quite possible that I would have required hysteroscopy to remove retained products, as I had previous uterine scarring from Asherman's syndrome, and the embryo also implanted in the area of the previous scarring. However, had I been given the correct dosage, I may not have needed to wait another day to respond to a drug which was given in too low a quantity to be effective anyway.

I noticed that on my hysteroscopic surgery report written under ‘reason for hysteroscopy’ was ‘failed medical management of miscarriage.’ This made me wonder if doctors and nurses would look at my file and incorrectly conclude that misoprostol was an ineffective drug for miscarriage, rather than realizing that the dose I had been given was inappropriate and not officially recommended for my stage of pregnancy. I wonder how many other women who claim their miscarriage management with misoprostol was a ‘failure’ were also given a dose not suited to their gestational age. From a patient perspective, I wonder why it is not possible for my hospital to provide treatment according to published recommendations for that indication (rather than according to a protocol used for another indication ie. second trimester abortion)? What is the logic in applying a protocol which goes against evidence-based medicine? I hope that instead of discouraging doctors, my experience will go towards persuading this hospital to broaden the current protocol so that women with first trimester miscarriage will benefit from misoprostol. For misoprostol to be effective and safe, it needs to be used according to established guidelines which take into account factors such as gestational age and indication.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Doctor’s orders: in support of Ashermans syndrome prevention and/or alternatives to D&C.

Here's what the doctors have written over the years in support of preventing Asherman's syndrome from occuring and more recently, in support of alternative methods to D&C for miscarriage management. This list is not exhaustive and I may add to it in future. There is so much evidence in the medical literature and knowledge among some doctors at least, that it is difficult to reconcile it with current medical practices. 'Translational research' might be the current buzz word at research centers, hospitals and universities, but how quickly this progress is incorporated into routine or widespread practice is entirely another matter. This is where patients need to speak up to encourage change, and why patients need to educate themselves and others first. Reading the research is the only way to get an overall view of the established facts rather than relying only on second hand information from others who may have vested interests or other agendas.

(my additions are in blue)

1. Toaf and Ballas, 1978 (1):

"Peurperal curettage…was discontinued in Israel after publication of Asherman’s observations.”

This is not so in the US, UK, Australia and many other countries. Also, curettage remains standard care for treating miscarriage in many countries (while abortion is now usually carried out medically).

2. Li et al, 2001 (2):

After vaginal delivery, a retained placenta may cause a risk to maternal health because of hemorrhage or infection. …manual removal of the retained placenta is a routine procedure. ..This invasive procedure increases risk of trauma*, rupture of uterus, hemorrhage, postpartum infection, and anesthetic complications.”

* Asherman’s syndrome may result

“In all 18 parturients, spontaneous expulsion of the placenta developed in an average interval of 12 min (range from 5 to 35 min) after rectal insertion of misoprostol.”

3. Friedler et al, 1993 (3):

“The incidence of IUA might be lower following medical evacuation of the uterus, thus avoiding any intra-uterine instrumentation; however, use of progesterone antagonists (ie, mifepristone) for this purpose is not yet approved by the Israeli Ministry of Health.”

4. Chapman and Chapman, 1990 (4):

“One must also note that the suction curette is capable of causing synechiae, usually, however in the region of the internal os.”
“It is noteworthy that, of the 11 patients with isthmus stenosis, six of them were attributable to termination of pregnancy, of which all but one had been performed by suction curettage”
“It goes without saying that, in view of the seriousness of the sequelae, the best management is prevention…”

3. Tam et al, 2002 (5):

“No cases of IUA were found in patients managed conservatively or by medical evacuation, whereas 2 cases (7.7%) of filmy IUA were detected in those managed by surgical evacuation.”

“We therefore recommend expectant management and medical evacuation as first-line treatment for complete abortion* and incomplete abortion*, respectively. Surgical evacuation should be the treatment of choice when {these methods} fails or is contraindicated.”
*ie miscarriage

6. Goldenberg et al, 1997 (6):
“Selective curettage of residual trophoblastic tissue directed by hysteroscopy is an easy and short procedure and might be preferable to conventional, nonselective, blind curettage.”

“…areas not covered by residual tissue…are not subject to surgical trauma during the selective procedure and presumably are therefore exposed to lower risks of inflammation, scarring and adhesion formation”

“Incomplete removal of the residua is more likely to occur during repeated conventional curettage, even if guided by ultrasonography, as had occurred in two of our patients. Direct visualization of the cavity allows…the exact location and extent of the residual tissue to be resected.”

7. Yu et al, 2008 (7):

“Prevention of Asherman Syndrome
Prevention is always better than cure. To prevent the formation of endometrial fibrosis and adhesions, it is essential that any trauma to the uterus be avoided, especially in the pregnant or postpartum state.”

They go on to recommend:
“Avoid postpartum or postabortion curettage”
“Diagnosis of retained products of conception …present a clinical challenge.
…Saline infusion sonohysterography (SHG) has enhanced our ability to diagnose retained products of conception (8)”
“…transvaginal B-mode ultrasonography combined with color velocity imaging and pulsed Doppler to detect retained trophoblastic tissue…could be useful to…select patients suitable for conservative management.(9)”
“Transvaginal duplex Doppler ultrasonography is also an effective noninvasive method for evaluating patients with persistent postpartum hermorrhage (10).”

"…hysteroscopy should be considered an effective method for diagnosis and treatment of retained products of conception." They cite the Goldenberg et al (6) study (see above).

“Select medical management of miscarriages
When termination of early pregnancy is necessary, medical treatment should be considered instead of surgical options.”
They cite the Tam et al study (5)(see above).

“Since its introduction, the uptake of medical abortion has been steadily increasing in countries where it has been available for routine use….Similarly, in the management of incomplete miscarriage or delayed miscarriage, expectant or medical treatment should be considered.”

7. Chung et al, 1995 (11):

“The accepted management of spontaneous abortion has not changed substantially in 60-70 years.”

“The policy of routine, universal evacuation of retained products of conception (ERPC) became the accepted form of management around the 1930s to combat [these*] complications. However, this approach may no longer be appropriate in all cases.”
*hemorrhage, infection.

“…in the United Kingdom, 90% of spontaneous abortions are managed [by ERPC] (12). Confidence in routine ERPC as the unquestioned ‘gold standard’ may no longer be justified. There may be alternative approaches that are less invasive but equally effective without incurring greater morbidity.”

“Transvaginal sonography can identify approximately one in three women with a spontaneous abortion who do not have a significant amount of retained tissue in the uterus.”

“Surgical intervention in {women who do not have a significant amount of retained tissue in the uterus} may unnecessarily incur iatrogenic complications without therapeutic gain.”

8. Demetroulis et al, 2001 (13):

“Surgical curettage under anaesthesia accounts for almost three-quarters of emergency gynaecological operations performed in the UK (14). However, dilatation and suction evacuation of the uterus under anaesthesia has certain morbidity, such as the risk of anaesthesia, uterine perforation, intrauterine adhesions, cervical trauma, and infections leading to infertility, pelvic pain and increased chance of ectopic pregnancy.”

9. Moodliar et al, 2005 (15):

“Moreover, surgical evacuation of retained products of conception (ERPC) is performed in the operating room, which significantly increases costs. Inherent in the procedure are the possible complications of perforation, hemorrhage, cervical trauma, intrauterine adhesions and postinstrumentation endometritis.”

“As an alternative, medical management has been found to be cost-effective and associated with fewer complications…Yet in South Africa*, incomplete abortion is still being managed by surgical evacuation.”

*in Australia and in many other countries too!

10. Muffley et al, 2002 (16):

“Curettage has been traditionally used as the surgical method of treatment. It has been estimated that approximately 100,000 uterine curettages are performed annually in the United States, at a total yearly cost of >100 million (17). Uterine curettage is associated with …hemorrhage and infection. Uterine adhesions, impaired future fertility, cervical trauma, uterine perforation, and anesthesia errors are also other potential sequelae of curettage.”

“In the late 1980s single-dose methotrexate therapy was introduced for the treatment of unruptured ampullary ectopic gestations (18). Nearly 10 years later, this medical therapy has replaced laparotomy or laparoscopy in many circumstances (19). At this time, however, medical treatment of early pregnancy failure is still in its infancy in the United States. On completion of multicenter randomized clinical trials, we believe that medical treatment will replace surgical therapy as the initial treatment of early pregnancy failure.”

(I hope so!)

Comment by Dr Lisa Fall:
“Firstly, as the trend toward later childrearing continues, we are faced with an increased incidence of pregnancy failure because of advancing gestational [ sic maternal] age. Our patients are interested in noninvasive options for treatment to avoid possible complications that may have an impact on future fertility.”
(Yup, that was me, but I was refused)
11. Zhang et al, 2005 (20):

“For most of the 20th century, dilatation and curettage was the commonly accepted approach to early pregnancy failure. This practice can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when illegally induced abortions commonly resulted in hemorrhage and sepsis (21). With the legalization of abortion and the availability of antibiotics, these problems have become rare. In more recent years, the medical community began to question whether immediate evacuation by surgical intervention was necessary for uncomplicated cases of early pregnancy failure (12,17).”

12. Stockheim et al, 2006 (22):

“Over the past decade, elective medical termination of pregnancy using a protocol that includes mifepristone and misoprostol was accepted into wide practice. This drug regimen was consistently shown to be associated with high success rates of 90-95% (23-26). However, medical treatment of pregnancy failure (blighted ovum or spontaneous abortion) has not yet gained wide acceptance.”

“Misoprostol is an effective and safe treatment for early pregnancy failure and could replace surgical curettage in over two-thirds of the patients.”

13. Creinin et al, 2006 (27):

“As clinicians and researchers, we must ask why women with an undesired normal pregnancy can receive a treatment regimen that is more effective than that tested for women with a desired abnormal pregnancy. The information presented in this analysis will allow us to better tailor misoprostol treatment for early pregnancy failure.”

I would also add, why women with an undesired normal pregnancy only have access to the mifepristone/misoprostol regimen which preserves fertility while those who miscarry do not.

14. Pang et al, 2001 (28):

“Misoprostol is justified as a first line treatment in the management of miscarriage in all cases because firstly it will avoid surgical intervention altogether in a proportion and secondly, in those who need it, misoprostol reduces surgery-related morbidity, mainly by priming the cervix (29.)”

15. Blanchard et al, 2004 (30):

“A growing body of research evidence indicates that medical treatment of incomplete abortion with misoprostol is an effective alternative to surgical intervention. Misoprostol could be an important alternative to dilatation and curettage or manual vacuum aspiration for treatment of incomplete abortion, allowing women to avoid surgical intervention and the attendant risks. Misoprostol is inexpensive and widely available and may also be more acceptable to women than the current standard of care.”

16. Shaw D, The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) President (31):

“Furthermore, women have the right to benefit from advances in scientific knowledge and since women brought unapproved, reproductive health use of misoprostol to the attention of health professionals, it is especially fitting that they now benefit from the research into such use.”

17. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee Opinion, 2009 (32):

“In addition, there is increasing evidence that misoprostol is a safe, effective,and acceptable method to achieve uterine evacuation for women needing postabortion* care.”

“Misoprostol may be used to treat women with an incomplete and missed abortion.”

* Postabortion care: “… refers to a specific set of services for women experiencing problems from all types of spontaneous or induced abortions.”

1. Toaff R, Ballas S (1978). Traumatic hypomenorrhea-amenorrhea (Asherman's syndrome). Fertil. Steril. 30 (4): 379–87.
 2. Li YT, Yin CS, Chen FM. Rectal administration of misoprostol for the management of retained placenta- a preliminary report. Chinese Medical Journal (Taipei) 2001;64:721-4.
 3. Friedler S, Margalioth EJ, Kafka I, Yaffe H. (1993). Incidence of postabortion intra-uterine adhesions evaluated by hysteroscopy: a prospective study. Hum Reprod 8 (3): 442–444.
 4. K Chapman and R Chapman. Asherman's syndrome: a review of the literature, and a husband and wife's 20-year world-wide experience. J R Soc Med. 1990 September; 83(9): 576–580.

5. Tam WH, Lau WC, Cheung LP, Yuen PM, Chung TK. (2002). Intrauterine adhesions after conservative and surgical management of spontaneous abortion. J Am Assoc Gynecol Laparosc. 9 (2): 182–185.

6. Goldenberg, M., Schiff, E.' Achiron, R.' Lipitz, S.' Mashiach, S. Managing residual trophoblastic tissue. Hysteroscopy for directing curettage. J Reprod Med. 1997;42(1)26-8.
 7. Yu D, Wong YM, Cheong Y, Xia E, Li TC. Asherman syndrome-one century later. Fertil Steril 2008;89(4):759-779.

8. Wolman I, Gordon D, Yaron Y, Kupferminc M, Lessing JB, Jaffa AJ. Transvaginal sonohysterography for the evaluation and treatment of retained products of conception. Gynecol Obstet Invest 2000;50:73-6.
 9. Alcazar JL. Transvaginal ultrasonography combined with color velocity imaging an dpulsed Doppler to detect residual trophoblastic tissue. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 1998; 11:54-8.

10. Achiron R, Goldenberg M, Lipitz S, Mashiach S. Transvaginal duplex Doppler ultrasonography in bleeding patients suspected of having residual trophoblastic tissue. Obstet Gynecol1993;81:507-11.
 11. Chung, TK, Cheung, LP, Leung, TY, Haines, CJ, and Chang, AM. Misoprostol in
the management of spontaneous abortion. Br J Obstet Gynaecol 1995;102(10):832-

12. Macrow, P and Elstein, M. Managing miscarriage medically. BMJ 1993;306(6882):876.
 13. Demetroulis, C, Saridogan, E, Kunde, D, and Naftalin, AA. A prospective randomized control trial comparing medical and surgical treatment for early pregnancy failure. Hum Reprod 2001;16(2):365-9.

14. McKee M, Priest P, Ginzlet M et al. Can out-of-hours operating in gynecology be reduced? Arch Emerg Med 1992;9:290-8.
 15. Moodliar S, Bagratee JS, Moodley J. Medical vs surgical evacuation of first-trimester spontaneous abortion. Int J Gynecol Obstet 2005;91:21-6.

16. Muffley, PE, Stitely, ML, and Gherman, RB. Early intrauterine pregnancy failure: a randomized trial of medical versus surgical treatment. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2002;187(2):321-5; discussion 325-6.
 17. Ballagh SA, Harris HA, Demasio K.Is curettage needed for uncomplicated incomplete spontaneous abortion? Am J Obstet Gynecol 1998;179:1279-82.
 18. Stovall, TG, Ling, FW, and Buster, JE. Outpatient chemotherapy of unruptured ectopic pregnancy. Fertil Steril 1989;51(3):435-8.
 19. Lipscomb, GH, Bran, D, McCord, ML, Portera, JC, and Ling, FW. Analysis of three hundred fifteen ectopic pregnancies treated with single-dose methotrexate. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1998;178(6):1354-8.
 20. Zhang, J, Gilles, JM, Barnhart, K, Creinin, MD, Westhoff, C, and Frederick, MM. A comparison of medical management with misoprostol and surgical management for early pregnancy failure. N Engl J Med 2005;353(8):761-9.

21. Hertig AT, Livingstone RG. Spontaneous, threatened and habitual abortion: their pathogenesis and treatment. N Engl J Med 1944;230:797-806.

22. Stockheim D, Machtinger R, Wiser A, Dulitzky M, Soriano D, Goldenberg M, Schiff E, Seidman D. A randomized prospective study of misoprostol or mifepristone followed by misoprostol when needed for the treatment of women with early pregnancy failure. Fertil Steril 86(4):956-60.
 23. World Health Organization Task Force on post-ovulatory methods of fertility regulation. Comparison of two doses of two doses of mifepristone in combination with misoprostol for early medical abortion: a randomized trial. BJOG 2000;107:524-30.
 24. Hausknecht RU. Methotrexate and misoprostol to terminate early pregnancy. N Engl J Med 1995;333:537-40.
 25. Peyron R, Auberny E, Targosz V, Silvestre L, Renault M, Elkik F et al. Early termination of pregnancy with mifepristone (RU 486) and the orally active prostaglandin misoprostol. N Engl J Med 1993;328:1509-13.
 26. Spitz IM, Bardin CW, Benton L, Robbins A. Early pregnancy termination with mifepristone and misprostol in the United States. N Engl J Med 1998;338:1241-7.
 27. Creinin MD, Huang X, Westhoff C, Barnhart K, Gilles JM, Zhang JZ. Factors related to successful misoprostol treatment for early pregnancy failure. Obstet Gynecol 2006; 107(4):901-907.

28. Pang MW, Lee TS, Chung TKH. Incomplete miscarriage: a randomized controlled trial comparing oral with vaginal misoprostol for medical evacuation. Hum Rep 2001;16(11):2283-7.
 29. Chung TKH, Cheung LP, Sahota DS et al. Spontaneous abortion: short term complications following either conservative or surgical management. Aust NZ J Obstet Gynaecol 2001; 38:61-4.
 30. Blanchard K, Taneepanichskul S, Kiriwat O, Sirimai K, Svirirojana N, Mavimbela N, Winikoff B. Two regimens of misoprostol for treatment of incomplete abortion. Obstetrics & Gynecology 2004;103(5 Pt1): 860-5.
 31. Shaw, D. Misoprostol for reproductive health: Dosage recommendations. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics 2007; 99:S155.

32. ACOG Committee on International Affairs. Committee Opinion: Misoprostol for postabortion care. Obstetrics & Gynecology 2009; 113(2) Part I:465-8.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ashermans syndrome in the news: The secret syndrome leaving women infertile

A recent article on Asherman’s syndrome (AS) appeared in the UK Daily mirror. It was about Sophie Blake, a TV presenter in the UK, who acquired Asherman’s syndrome as a result of two D&Cs to remove retained placenta after giving birth. It is unfortunate that her situation was not handled differently, as postpartum D&C has been reported to result in Asherman’s syndrome in 25% of cases (1). There are usually alternatives, and in some countries such as Israel, post partum D&C is no longer performed because of AS risks (2).

Toaff and Ballas, 1978
“Puerperal curettage….was discontinued in Israel after publication of Asherman’s observations*”.

Publicity about Asherman’s syndrome is important, and it always helps to have a public figure bring awareness to an overlooked condition. However, according to the article, the moral of the story is to seek early treatment when there is actually no evidence that fertility is more likely to be restored if treatment is sought early. Studies have shown that fertility outcomes are correlated with severity of adhesions (3), however there have been no studies on the effect of length of the condition on fertility. Sometimes damage is too great to be corrected and the uterus will rescar at every attempt to surgically remove adhesions and hormonally stimulate endometrial growth, even when early treatment was commenced. Other times, adhesions are not so severe and treatment after years will result in a live birth. Although treatment by an experienced AS specialist should always be sought, fertility outcome will be dependent most of all on the severity of initial injury (ie. D&C, intrauterine surgery with or without endometritis) which led to the scarring. When too many endometrial cells are removed to allow the endometrium to regenerate, this leads to recurrent adhesions and/or widespread fibrosis. In many cases even some of the underlying myometrium is removed. It is simple, without further progress in treatment strategies, there is nothing that can be done to replenish regenerative tissue that has been removed during curettage or other uterine surgery.

Early treatment does not guarantee success-just as late treatment does not guarantee failure

“Ideally corrective surgery should be performed within six months of the adhesions forming before they get too large”
This suggests that intrauterine adhesions continue to get worse over time, which is not true. Injury results in scarring anywhere in the body, and scarring is not progressive after a certain time point. Adhesions occur when scarring occurs internally and tissues are in direct contact with each other during the healing process. IUA formation is a normal physiological response to trauma-albeit trauma that is usually iatrogenic and should not have occurred in the first place. The consequences of this normal response are pathological because adhesions can lead to infertility, miscarriage and/or obstetric complications when they occur in the uterus. In actuality, IUA formation begins immediately after injury or corrective surgery and is complete by around 6-8 weeks according to Asherman’s syndrome specialists (unfortunately I am unable to find a reference for this, however studies where hysteroscopic followups are performed after D&C mention waiting 6-8 weeks at least). This is even supported in the article:

“I was devastated the scarring had come back so quickly,”

After 8 weeks, IUA do not continue to form/progress. Therefore, someone with stage I AS diagnosed 3 months after surgery will not go on to have stage IV 3 years later, because their adhesions have already fully formed by 8 weeks. There is one study which asserts that women who had early followup compared to late follow up hysteroscopy following adhesiolysis had less severe adhesions, and that early treatment would give a better outcome (4). However, early followup was 2-4 weeks after the initial surgery while late followup was 8-16 months. Thus adhesions may appear to be less ‘severe’ in the early followup group simply because they had not fully formed. The main advantage of early treatment (ie. before 6-8 weeks) is that it makes it easier for the doctor to dissect adhesions and not cause new ones inadvertently. However, in practical terms, it is highly unlikely that women will be diagnosed with AS within 6-8 weeks after a surgery (let alone treated), therefore it is usually applied as a treatment strategy after adhesiolysis instead of a uterine stent (5).

“It makes me seethe because if Asherman’s is caught early it’s totally treatable.”
“It’s treatable in the early stages, but it took two years for me to get a diagnosis.”

It is suggested that had she had surgery sooner, she would have possibly reversed the damage and regained her fertility. This is unlikely. Very severe adhesions tend to recur (3) inspite of surgery or hormone therapy. Early intervention will not make much of a difference because the extent of the initial damage is such that too many regenerative endometrial cells have been removed during the initial trauma.

It has been hypothesized (but not been proven) that the adhesive process can be progressive because adhesions limit uterine muscular activity thereby reducing perfusion of sex steroids to the endometrium which atrophy as the consequence (6). However, endometrial atrophy, which would lead to thin endometrium or fibrosis, is different to IUA. Most current classification systems only take adhesion type and extent into consideration, not fibrosis.

On the other hand, it is possible that someone with moderately severe adhesions which are treatable may develop fibrosis if treatment is not sought for years. Fibrosis would impact on fertility, not by causing IUA, but by limiting blood flow to an area of the uterus.

As one never knows whether their case is severe or not, by all means seek treatment with an AS specialist, but the best prognosis is severity.

Prevalence versus incidence“While the exact number of Asherman’s sufferers is not known, it’s estimated that 5% of D&Cs cause the condition – that’s about 3,000 new cases a year.”

The article confuses the estimated prevalence rate of Asherman’s syndrome (5%) with incidence rate after D&C. The prevalence of AS is 5%, meaning that roughly 1 in 20 women in the general population have AS. This does not however mean that the incidence rate of AS after a D&C is 5%. Incidence is the percentage of women who develop AS from a particular procedure, such as D&C. Studies have reported rates varying between 7.7 and 30% after D&C for miscarriage (7,8,9,10,11), and 25% from D&C for post partum retained placenta 2-4 weeks after delivery (2). The reason the incidence is higher than the prevalence is that not all women will have a miscarriage, and not all women who miscarry will have a missed or incomplete miscarriage or will be treated by D&C. Furthermore, there will be undiagnosed cases of AS (either because the woman does not desire more children or her infertility remains ‘unexplained’), and obviously not every woman in the population will undergo diagnosis for IUA. One should also remember that there are other causes of AS including other intrauterine surgery and genital tuberculosis (12) and these carry different incidence rates too.

It is important to report the correct incidence rate after a procedure such as D&C because this gives women a better idea of risks and helps her to make an informed decision before consenting to the procedure. There are almost always equally effective alternatives to D&C such as drugs or minimally invasive surgery like hysteroscopy which incur no or less damage.

Prevention: more information and accuracy needed

“Doctors are increasingly opting for less-invasive methods including suction or the use of tablets”

It’s unfortunate that the focus of the story was on preventing infertility through early treatment-which is misleading-rather than on promoting alternatives to D&C.
There is one sentence about prevention, and sadly it contains an inaccuracy as well as an omission. Suction D&C has never been proven to prevent AS, let alone reduce the incidence rates of AS:

Chapman and Chapman, 1990: (13)
“It is noteworthy that, of the 11 patients with isthmus stenosis, six of them were attributable to termination of pregnancy, of which all but one had been performed by suction curettage”

Dalton et al, 2006 (14)
“Intrauterine adhesions are a possible complication of office MVA (manual vacuum aspiration), even in the absence of sharp curettage, and should be considered when discussing treatment options for EPF (early pregnancy failure) with patients."

“After 262 office MVAs for first trimester pregnancy losses, we have identified 5 cases of IUAs…”

There is also no guarantee that your doctor will use only suction D&C, as many will use blunt or sharp instruments as well during the same procedure.

The mysterious ‘tablets’ mentioned allude to misoprostol, a prostaglandin E1 analogue which can evacuate the uterus after miscarriage, delivery or during termination, by causing uterine contractions. Referred to as medical management of miscarriage or retained placenta, or medical abortion depending on the situation where it is used, misoprostol is a non-invasive method which has been shown to prevent IUA compared to suction D&C in a clinical trial (7).

Here you can find out more about how misoprostol can prevent AS if you have a miscarriage. It can also prevent recurrence of AS in women who have a miscarriage after having had the condition.

1. Toaff R, Ballas S (1978). "Traumatic hypomenorrhea-amenorrhea (Asherman's syndrome)". Fertil. Steril. 30 (4): 379–87.

2. Jensen, P.A. and W.B. Stromme, Amenorrhea secondary to puerperal curettage (Asherman's syndrome). Am J Obstet Gynecol, 1972. 113(2): p. 150-7.

3. Valle RF, and Sciarra JJ (1988). "Intrauterine adhesions: Hystreoscopic diagnosis, classification, treatment and reproductive outcome". . Am J Obstet 158 (6Pt1): 1459–1470.

4. Shokeir, T.A., M. Fawzy, and M. Tatongy, The nature of intrauterine adhesions following reproductive hysteroscopic surgery as determined by early and late follow-up hysteroscopy: clinical implications. Arch Gynecol Obstet, 2008. 277(5): p. 423-7.

5. Robinson JK, Colimon LM, Isaacson KB. Postoperative adhesiolysis therapy for intrauterine adhesions (Asherman's syndrome). Fertil Steril. 2008;90(2):409-14.

6. March CM. (1995). "Intrauterine adhesions". Obstet Gynecol Clin N Am 22: 98–103.

7. Tam WH, Lau WC, Cheung LP, Yuen PM, Chung TK. (2002). "Intrauterine adhesions after conservative and surgical management of spontaneous abortion". J Am Assoc Gynecol Laparosc. 9 (2): 182–185.

8. Adoni A, Palti Z, Milwidsky A, Dolberg M. (1982). "The incidence of intrauterine adhesions following spontaneous abortion". Int J Fertil. 27 (2): 117–118.

9. Golan, A., et al., Hysteroscopic findings after missed abortion. Fertil Steril, 1992. 58(3): p. 508-10.

10. Romer, T European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology
Volume 57, Issue 3, December 1994, Pages 171-173

11. Friedler S, Margalioth EJ, Kafka I, Yaffe H. (1993). "Incidence of postabortion intra-uterine adhesions evaluated by hysteroscopy: a prospective study". Hum Reprod 8 (3): 442–444.

12. Kodaman PH, Arici AA. (2007). "Intra-uterine adhesions and fertility outcome: how to optimize success?". Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol 19 (3): 207–214.

13. K Chapman and R Chapman. Asherman's syndrome: a review of the literature, and a husband and wife's 20-year world-wide experience. J R Soc Med. 1990 September; 83(9): 576–580.

14. Dalton VK, Saunders NA, Harris LH, Williams JA, Lebovic DI (2006). "Intrauterine adhesions after manual vacuum aspiration for early pregnancy failure". Fertil. Steril. 85 (6): 1823.e1–3