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MANAGEMENT OF POSTMENOPAUSAL BLEEDING.

Byline: NASIM SABA, M.HAMAYUN AND M. BILAL

ABSTRACT

Aim: To describe the appropriate management of women with postmenopausal bleeding (PMB). Study Design: Descriptive study in one year (Jan Dec, 2012).

Method: All patients with postmenopausal bleeding in one year were investigated and managed. Basic investigation was trans-vaginal sonography. Those with endometrial thickness more than 4 mm were further investigated by dilatation and curettage, then management strategy was planned according to the cause.

Result: A total of 23 patients were presented with postmenopausal bleeding (endometrial thickness greater than 4 mm) during one year. Among them 11 case were having first episode and the remaining had re- current bleeding. Endometrial hyperplasia (simple) was the common pathology (52%), in whom surgical management (hysterectomy) was performed in 60% cases. Three cases (13%) were man- aged with MIRENA (levonorgestrel releasing intrauterine system). Two case were diagnosed as endometrial carcinoma. Both of them were having advanced stage and were referred to Shaukat Khanum Hospital Lahore.

Conclusion: Trans-vaginal sonography can reliably asses thickness and morphology of endomet- rium, thus risk group can be identified. Endometrial hyperplasia is the major cause of PMB. Dilata- tion and curettage, can provide sufficient diagnostic accuracy. Hysterectomy remained the main management of PMB patients.

Key words: Endometrial sampling, endometrial thickness, postmenopausal bleeding, transvaginal ultrasonography.

INTRODUCTION

Postmenopausal bleeding (PMB), defined as uterine bleeding occurring after at least 1 year of menopau- sal amenorrhoea, is a common clinical condition wi- th an incidence of 10% immediately after menop- ause. Patient with PMB have a 10 15% chance of having endometrial carcinoma.2-6 Therefore, the clinical approach to PMB requires prompt and effective evaluation to exclude cancer in the genital tract or precancerous lesions of the endometrium. However, vaginal atrophy, and benign focal lesions such as endometrial polyps and hyperplasia are estimated to be responsible for it in about 40% of cases.2,3

Endometrial cancer is the most common gynaecological malignancy.4,5 Risk factors include obesity, unopposed estrogens, polycystic ovary syndrome, and nulliparity. Ninety percent of women with endo- metrial carcinoma present with vaginal bleeding. Unlike ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer often presents at an early stage when there is a possibility of curative treatment by hysterectomy; early, accurate and timely diagnosis is therefore important.

PMB is usually attributed to an intrauterine source, but may arise from the vulva, vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, or it may be related to ovarian patho- logy. Haematometra may also result from cervical stenosis. The bleeding may originate from extra-ge- nital sites as the urethra or bladder, and the rectum or bowel.

METHODS AND PATIENTS

This was descriptive study, conducted in gynae depa- rtment of the teaching hospital of Gomal Medical College Dera Ismail Khan.

A total of 41 patients presented with PMB in one year (during the study period).

All patients were subjected to screening by trans-vaginal sonography. Eight patients (%) had endometrial thickness less than 4 mm so they were given just reassurance and no further invasive in- vestigation was carried out. Patient with bleeding form urethra and rectum were also excluded from study.

Twenty three patients, who had endometrial thickness more than 4 mm were subjected to dilatatio and curettage, and specimen was sent to Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital through their collection centers.

The patients were evaluated clinically and then in the light of histopathological report management strategies were planned for individual patients.

Two patients, who turned out to be the carcinoma endometrium, were in advance stage and they electively opted for Shaukat Khanum Hospital and we referred them without further investigation.

All patients were educated about strategic follow-up plan. This follow-up plan also include those who were only on reassurance and no management was done. This will give further information with ongoing visits.

RESULTS

The main cause for postmenopausal bleeding was endometrial hyperplasia (52.1%). Only one patient was reported atypical and others histopathology was simple hyperplasia. Endometrial polyp was found in 26% cases, sub-mucosal fibroids 13% and only two patients were diagnosed as carcinoma endometrium.

Regarding management option, 60% had hyste- rectomy with bilateral salpingo oophorectomy. Three patients with simple hyperplasia were managed with MIRENA, (intrauterine systems) (IUS). Total patie- nts with endometrial polyp were 26%, four among them (17%), underwent simple polypectomy, while two patients with polyp had recurrent PMB, event after polypectomy, so ultimately hysterectomy was

Table 1: Causes of Postmenopausal bleeding.

S. No.###Case###% age

1.###Endometrial Hyperplasia###12###52.17

###Cystic###11###47.8

###Atypical###1###4.34

2.###Endometrial Polyp###6###26.0

3.###Sub-mucosal fibroid###3###13.0

4.###Endometrial Carcinoma###2###8.69

Table 2: Management Options for PMB.

S. No.###Case###% age

1.###Total Abdominal Hysterectomy e bilateral salpingooophorectomy###14###60.89

2.###MIRENA intrauterine system###3###13.0

3.###Referral to Shaukat Khanum###2###8.69

4.###Polypectomy###4###17.39

Fig. 1: Thickened Endometrium on TVS. performed.

Commonest medical disorder found was hyper-a

Table 3: Medical Disorders in associated with PMB.

S. No.###Case###% age

1.###Diabetes Mallitus###7###30.43

2.###Hypertension###16###69.56

3.###Asthma###2###8.69

tension (69%), only 7 patients has associated diabe- tes mellitus, among them one patient of carcinoma endometrium was diabetic and another one was hav- ing hypertension. Asthma was present in 2 cases.

Fig. 2: Normal Endometrium.

DISCUSSION

Patient specifications and the risk of endometrial cancer is the main concern of PMB. The pre-test pro- bability of endometrial cancer of women with PMB is about 10%, but various clinical specifications may alter this proportion, which rises from 1% in women aged less than 50 years to almost 25% in women aged greater than 80% years. The incidence of cancer is higher in women with PMB and obesity (18%) or with PMB and diabe- tes the incidence may be as high as 29%.5

Since it was introduced in the 1980s, trans-vagi- nal sonography (TVS) has become widely used in the evaluation of woman with PMB. Before TVS, women with PMB underwent dilatation and curettage. The relatively non-invasive nature of the TVS makes it more acceptable, especially to older women. The li- kelihood of important pathology (cancer) being present increases with increasing thickness of endomet- rium (Figure 1).6

TVS can reliably assess thickness of the endo- metrium and can thus identify a group of women with PMB who have a thin endometrium (%0$? 4 mm) and are therefore unlikely to have endometrial can-cer (Figure 2). Endometrial sampling is therefore not recommended below this cut off value.6-9

To date, four meta analysis have been published; each has used different methods to determine the accuracy of TVS in diagnosing endometrial abno- rmalities in women with PMB.

The most sited meta analyses by Smith Bindman et al.3 included 5892 women from 35 prospec- tive studies that compared endometrial thickness measured at TVS to presence or absence of endomet- rial carcinoma on histology. There is only one study that looked at follow-up of women with PMB and an endometrial thickness of less than 4 mm.10 It showed that none of the women with the expectant management developed cancer over 1 year of follow-up.

The comprehensive systematic review of Guptaet al.7 included only best quality studies (only four studies were included). For an endometrial thickness of %0$? 5 mm, the review concludes that, using the evi- dence from the best quality studies, a negative result at %0$? 5 mm cut off rules out endometrial pathology with a high degree of certainty.

In their meta analysis, Tabor et al.8 included only studies from which they were able to extract the original data from the authors. The median endome- trial thickness was calculated per study / centre then pooled data for endometrial thickness were used with a sensitivity of 96% and specificity of 50% and 4% false negative rate. In their opinion, endometrial thickness measurement does not reduce the need of invasive diagnostic testing. Timmermans et al.11 conducted meta analytic strategies whereby 79 primary investigators were conducted to obtain the individual patient data of their reported studies of which 13 could provide data. Data on 2896 individuals, of whom 259 had cancer, were analyzed. It

was conclude that previous meta analyses on en- dometrial thickness measurement have probably overestimated its diagnostic accuracy in the detect- ion of carcinoma.

Meaningful assessment of the endometrial (thickness and morphology) by ultrasonography is not possible in all patients. In such cases or if bleeding persists despite negative initial evaluation, alterna- tive methods are indicated.9

Saline infusions sonography (SIS) involves the infusions of saline into the uterine cavity during ult- rasound to separate the two walls of the endomet- rium, which allows their thickness to be measured. It also allows the evaluation of intra-cavity lesions such as fibroids or polyps. Meta analyses, de Kroon et al.12 concluded that SIS is accurate in the evalu- ation of the uterine cavity in pre- and postmenopau- sal women. Therefore outpatient biopsy and hystero- scopy are still the methods of choice.

Patients with an increased endometrial thick- ness should undergo further invasive testing. Dilat- ion and curettage is now considered to be an out- dated practice and is replaced by less invasive out- patient evaluation using endometrial biopsy devices and outpatient hysteroscopy guided biopsies.

In the next meta analyses of Dijkhuizen et al.13 different endometrial biopsies devises were compa- red. In postmenopausal women endometrial sampl- ing with both the Pipelle device (Pipelle de Cornier, Paris, France) and the Vebra device (Berkeley Mede- vices, Inv; Richmond, CA, USA) were very sensitive techniques for the detection of endometrial carci- noma, with detection rates of 99.6% and 97.1% res- pectively but we still rely upon conventional curet- tage because of minimum facilities in our district and the amount of tissue obtained by office sampling is sometimes insufficient for histological diagnosis. In those cases the clinician is an doubt whether or not to proceed with more invasive testing or to rely on the negative biopsy in a prospective study per- formed by Van Doorn et al. finding implies that wo- men with insufficient and endometrial thickness of greater than 5 mm should not be reassured.14

It would appear from the controlled regression analyses by Bakour et al.15 that clinicians can be confident in reassuring women with an insufficient sample on outpatient endometrial biopsy, provided that the hysteroscopic and sonographic endometrial assessment is consistent with endometrial atrophy. This means that it is reasonable to reassure and dis- charge women with an insufficient endometrial sam- ple with negative scan (%0$? 4 mm) without the need to expose them to hysteroscopy and curettage. The ne- ed for reinvestigation on recurrence of symptoms should be borne in mind; for example, a small polyp in an atrophic endometrium may not be detected because the endometrial sampling does not yield eno- ugh cells. Compared with traditional methods such as curettage, hysteroscopy offers the possibility of visualizing macroscopically focal abnormalities and taking directed biopsies.

Outpatient hysteroscopy allows direct visualization of the uterine cavity, which is particularly useful for excluding endometrial polyps or fibroids. With the development of sma- ller diameter hysteroscopic symptoms and the intro- duction of a `vaginoscopic' approach, patient accep- tance has improved and hysteroscopy nowadays can be performed in an outpatient setting without an anesthesia. Inpatient hysteroscopy is required only if the outpatient assessment is either inadequate or impossible to perform.

Clark et al.16 conducted a systematic quantitative review looking at the accuracy of hysteroscopy in the diagnosis of endometrial cancer and hyperplasia in women with abnormal uterine bleeding. The review concluded that the diagnostic accuracy of hystero- scopy is high for endometrial cancer but only mode- rate for endometrial diseases defined as cancer and / or hyperplasia.

Diagnostic strategies for postmenopausal bleed-ing depends upon the true clinical value of a test lies in the information obtained beyond what was alre- ady known from the history and examination. In the evaluation of Diagnosis test, Khan et al. built a step- wise four multivariable approach to take into acco- unt the clinical context. The first model provides a valid estimate of the combined predictive value of the clinical history variables and tests (ultrasono- graphy or hysteroscopy, or the ultrasonography and hysteroscopy combined). The predictive ability of the addition of both ultrasonography and hysteroscopy is markedly increased.19-20

Similarly, to determine the most cost effective testing strategy for diagnosing endometrial carcinoma in women with PMB, Clark et al. constructed a decision model the strategy of TVS as initial investi- gation with a cut off 5 mm and endometrial biopsy were most cost effective. Khan et al. proposed to evaluate tests using a multivariable approach and proposed the use of individual patient data meta analyses.21-22

Individual patient characteristic including age, time since menopause, obesity hypertension and di- abetes mellitus are known risk factors of endomet- rial carcinoma. However, current policy is based not on these risk factors but on endometrial thickness.

TVS has been suggested as screening test. The UK Collaborative Trial for Ovarian Cancer Screening (JKCTOCS), which aims to establish the impact of ovarian cancer screening on ovarian cancer morta- lity, is the world's largest collaborative screening tri- al, involves greater than 200000 UK women and reports in 2015. Data from the assessment of endometrial thi- ckness and morphology in the course of this trial have provided invaluable information on endomet- rial thickness in asymptomatic women. These find- ings concluded that TVS screening for endometrial cancer has high sensitivity in postmenopausal wo- men.21-22

Schmidt et al.23 Proposed that hysteroscopy re- presents an easy, safe and effective methods for the investigation of asymptomatic women with a thick- ened endometrium ( greater than 6 mm). The commonest path- ology was endometrial polyps (74.3%).

Curcic et al.24 concluded that the presence of endometrial fluid detected by TVS is a good marker for pathological changes of the endometrium in a postmenopausal women if the endometrial thickness is less than 4 mm. If the endometrial is less than 4 mm, the prese- nce of endometrial fluid is not an indication for fur- ther invasive investigation.

In a multicenter study by Ferrazzi et al.25 on 1152 asymptomatic women and 770 women with PMB, only one case (0.1%) of stage 1, grade 1 endometrial carcinoma on a polyp with a mean diameter of 40 mm was observed in asymptomatic women.

The authors concluded that follow-up and / or treatment of endometrial polyps incidentally diagno- sed in asymptomatic postmenopausal patients could be safely restricted to a few select cases based on polyp diameter.

Endometrial polyps are frequent finding in post- menopausal bleeding. On cohort study27 investigated the efficacy of treatment regarding recurrent bleed- ing, and found that the recurrent rate of postmeno- pausal bleeding in women with endometrial thick- ness greater than 4 mm was 20%. There was no difference with respect to recurrence rate between patients with polyp removal, patients with a normal hysteroscopy, and patients with office endometrial sampling alone at the initial workup.

In their nested case control study of endometrial hyperplasia (EH) progression, Lacey et al.28 su- mmarised the 34 year experience of the included 138 cases, which were diagnosed with EH and then with carcinoma.

Atypical hyperplasia (AH) significantly increased the relative risk of carcinoma (14; 95% CI 5 38). This risk justifies discussing the management of the- se cases case by case in the multidisciplinary gynae- cology oncology meeting where by hysterectomy is generally recommended for women with endometrial hyperplasia, (atypical) because of a high proba- bility of underlying carcinoma. Treatment of endo- metrial hyperplasia without atypia in postmenopa- usal women with a levonorgestrel intrauterine device has been suggested to be an effective and safe alter- native.

It is concluded that all patients with postmeno- pausal bleeding should be screened by trans-vaginal sonography. Those with endometrial thickness greater than 4 mm should have endometrial sampling. Though total number of study group is very minimal for a scie- ntific conclusion, but still in our under develop medical setups, dilation and curettage is a valid investigation.

Patients with PMB, specially recurrent cases, hysterectomy is main management option. Patients with simple hyperplasia can be effectively managed with MIRENA IUS.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

I am thankful to Mr. Ali Khan and Mr. Muhammad Sohail Mahsud Advocate for the preparation of this manuscript.

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Department of Gynaecology, Gomal Medical College, D.I. Khan

District Teaching Hospital, Faisalabad and 3Surgical Unit B, Kynber Teaching Hospital, Peshawar
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