Case Report: Intractable Damage to the Uterine Lining (Asherman Syndrome ) causing Failed Implantation

Marissa (39y) and her husband, Pete (43y) presented with a history of having had 2 healthy children together. Marissa was a normally menstruating/ovulating lady with a fertile husband. The birth of her 2nd child was complicated by partial delivery of the placenta and   was accompanied by a post-partum hemorrhage (bleeding). A manual removal of the retained piece of placenta was undertaken following which her uterus was deemed to be empty. After the birth of her baby, Marissa had a low-grade fever, lower abdominal pain, malaise and a malodorous lochia (post-delivery secretions) that persisted for >2 weeks. At this point an ultrasound was done and it revealed that there was still some retained placental tissue in her uterus, and a D & C was performed. In the years that followed, Marissa noticed a marked reduction in menstrual flow. However, since she was still ovulating normally (based upon home ovulation testing, she thought nothing of it and tried in-vain to have a 3rd child.

When 3 years of trying to have another baby proved unsuccessful, the couple sought the services of a fertility specialist who performed a hysteroscopy to examine Marissa’s uterine cavity. This established that Marissa had significant intrauterine adhesions that were in-part obliterating her uterine cavity. The adhesions (synechiae) were transected and cleared and a balloon catheter was temporarily placed inside  her uterine cavity to try and avert refusion of the inner opposing uterine surfaces. A follow-up hysteroscopy done 3 months later established that a regular contour of Marissa’s uterine cavity had been restored.

At this point, Marissa and Pete elected to do IVF. She responded well to a modest stimulation with gonadotropins (fertility hormones) and underwent an egg retrieval where 14 mature eggs were harvested from her ovaries. At the time of egg retrieval, her uterine lining measured 6.5mm (“inadequate”). Fertilization by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) followed by culture, resulted in 5 blastocysts, four of which were determined by preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) to be chromosomally normal (euploid). These were frozen for subsequent transfer to the uterus at a later date.

About 4 months later an attempt was made to prepare Marissa’s uterus for frozen embryo transfer FET). However, the endometrial lining was refractive to hormone therapy with oral estrogen and aspirin therapy, failing to thicken beyond 7mm (very “inadequate”). The cycle was appropriately canceled.

Subsequently, when several attempts at stimulating endometrial growth with high dosage estrogen by oral/vaginal/ skin patch and intramuscular administration failed to improve matters, Marissa sought a consultation with me as a “last resort” before either abandoning further attempts at having a baby or resorting to Gestational Surrogacy.

It was clear to me that incomplete evacuation of Marissa’s uterus after the birth of her last baby had been at the root of her problem.  This almost certainly had resulted in endometritis which severely damaged her basal (germinal”) endometrium and caused an inflammatory process that fused the inner surfaces of her uterine cavity. Because of this, implantation could not take place.

Endometrial Thickness and implantation potential:

It was as far back as 1989, when I first published a study that examined the correlation between the thickness of a woman’s uterine lining (the endometrium), and the subsequent successful implantation of embryos in IVF patients. This study revealed that when the uterine lining measured <8mm in thickness by the day of the “hCG trigger” (in fresh IVF cycles), or at the time of initiating progesterone therapy (in embryo recipient cycles, e.g. frozen embryo transfers-FET, egg donation-IVF etc.), pregnancy and birth rates were substantially improved. Currently, it is my opinion, that an ideal estrogen-promoted endometrial lining should ideally measure at least 9mm in thickness and that an endometrial lining measuring 8-9mm is “intermediate”. An estrogenic lining of <8mm is in most cases unlikely to yield a viable pregnancy.

A “poor” (<8mm) uterine lining is usually the result of the innermost layer of endometrium (the basal or germinal endometrium from which endometrium grows) ) not being able to respond to estrogen by propagating an outer, “functional” layer thick enough  to support optimal embryo implantation and development of a healthy placenta (placentation). The “functional” layer ultimately comprises 2/3 of the full endometrial thickness and is the layer that sheds with menstruation in the event that no pregnancy occurs.

 

The main causes of a “poor” uterine lining are:

  1. Damage to the basal endometrium as a result of:
    1. Inflammation of the endometrium (endometritis) most commonly resulting from infected products left over following abortion, miscarriage or birth
    2. Surgical trauma due to traumatic uterine scraping, (i.e. due to an over-aggressive D & C)
  2. Insensitivity of the basal endometrium to estrogen due to:
    1. Prolonged , over-use/misuse of clomiphene citrate
    2. Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES).  This is a drug that was given to pregnant women in the 1960’s to help prevent miscarriage
  3. Over-exposure of the uterine lining to ovarian male hormones (mainly testosterone): Older women, women with diminished ovarian reserve (poor responders) and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome -PCOS tend to have raised LH biological activity.. This causes the connective tissue in the ovary (stroma/theca) to overproduce testosterone. The effect can be further exaggerated when certain methods for ovarian stimulation such as agonist (Lupron/Buserelin) “flare” protocols and high dosages of menotropins such as Menopur are used in such cases.
  4. Reduced blood flow to the basal endometrium:

Examples include;

    1. Multiple uterine fibroids – especially when these are present under the endometrium (submucosal)
  1. Uterine adenomyosis (excessive, abnormal invasion of the uterine muscle by endometrial glands).

 

“The Viagra Connection”

Eighteen years ago years ago, after reporting on the benefit of vaginal Sildenafil (Viagra) for to women who had implantation dysfunction due to thin endometrial linings I was proud to announce the birth of the world’s first “Viagra baby.” Since the introduction of this form of treatment, thousands of women with thin uterine linings have been reported treated and many have gone on to have babies after repeated prior IVF failure.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the use of Viagra in IVF, allow me to provide some context. It was in the 90’s that Sildenafil (brand named Viagra) started gaining popularity as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.  The mechanism by which it acted was through increasing penile blood flow through increasing nitric oxide activity. This prompted me to investigate whether Viagra administered vaginally, might similarly improve uterine blood flow and in the process cause more estrogen to be delivered to the basal endometrium and thereby increase endometrial thickening. We found that when Viagra was administered vaginally it did just that! However oral administration was without any significant benefit in this regard.  We enlisted the services of a compound pharmacy to produce vaginal Viagra suppositories. Initially, four (4) women with chronic histories of poor endometrial development and failure to conceive following several advanced fertility treatments were evaluated for a period of 4-6 weeks and then underwent IVF with concomitant Viagra therapy. Viagra suppositories were administered four times daily for 8-11 days and were discontinued 5-7 days prior to embryo transfer in all cases.

Our findings clearly demonstrated that vaginal Viagra produced a rapid and profound improvement in uterine blood flow and that was followed by enhanced endometrial development in all four cases. Three (3) of the four women subsequently conceived. I expanded the trial in 2002 and became the first to report on the administration of vaginal Viagra to 105 women with repeated IVF failure due to persistently thin endometrial linings. All of the women had experienced at least two (2) prior IVF failures attributed to intractably thin uterine linings. About 70% of these women responded to treatment with Viagra suppositories with a marked improvement in endometrial thickness. Forty five percent (45%) achieved live births following a single cycle of IVF treatment with Viagra The miscarriage rate was 9%. None of the women who had failed to show an improvement in endometrial thickness following Viagra treatment achieved viable pregnancies.

Following vaginal administration, Viagra is rapidly absorbed and quickly reaches the uterine blood system in high concentrations. Thereupon it dilutes out as it is absorbed into the systemic circulation. This probably explains why treatment is virtually devoid of systemic side effects

It is important to recognize that Viagra will NOT be effective in improving endometrial thickness in all cases. In fact, about 30%-40% of women treated fail to show any improvement. This is because in certain cases of thin uterine linings, the basal endometrium will have been permanently damaged and left unresponsive to estrogen. This happens in cases of severe endometrial damage due mainly to post-pregnancy endometritis (inflammation) such as was the case with Marissa.

While about 75% of women with thin uterine linings see a positive response to treatment within 2-3 days. The ones that do not respond well to this treatment are those who (like Marissa) have severely damaged inner (basal/germinal) endometrial linings, such that no improvement in uterine blood flow can coax an improved response. Such women usually require a Gestational Surrogate.

I performed a trial of Viagra therapy on Marissa, but alas, her uterine lining failed to improve sufficiently so I advised the couple to seek ot a Gestational Surrogate, which they are now considering.

8 Comments

Febbie

Dear Dr. Sher,

I started to have very painful periods with on and off pelvic pain throughout the cycle since the age of 33. I had a submucosal fibroid (1.5cm) removed via hysteroscopic myomectomy. There is another 2cm intramural fibroid which is not removed. I was never diagnosed to have sexually transmitted disease. My doctors told me the pain is likely due to endometriosis. I have never had a laparoscopy to prove this (they did not recommend it). Transvaginal ultrasound does not show any endometrioma. I had a hysterosalpingogram which showed patent bilateral fallopian tubes.

I started to try to conceive since age 35. I am now 36. After half a year going naturally without success, I consulted a fertility specialist. My husband’s semen analysis is fine. I had 2 rounds of IUI with Femara yielding 2 nice follicles each time. The second round resulted in a chemical pregnancy. I had one more round of IUI with gonal-F 75IU, but it yielded only 1 follicle and no success. I then proceeded to do IVF 4 months ago. I have four day 3 embryos and four day 5 ones.

From what I observe, my problem seems to be a lining issue. I started to have lighter and shorter periods which coincided with the onset of my pelvic pain. During the IUI cycles, my lining was only 6-7mm before HCG trigger. In that IUI cycle where gonal-F was used, it got up to 7.8mm. During the IVF cycle, my lining went up to 8.2mm 3 days before oocyte retrieval, which was the thickest I have ever achieved. But my doctor decided against a fresh transfer due to fear of OHSS.

2 months ago, I started on Estrofem 2mg TDS for an artificial cycle, but my oestrogen only went up to 700pmol/L with a lining of 5.5mm. My doctor said my body could not absorb the Estrofem well and that cycle was cancelled. Next I tried a natural cycle and my oestrogen went up to 1300pmol/L before the LH surge. However, my lining was still around 5-6mm. My doctor asked me to go ahead with the embryo transfer because the lining had a nice trilaminar appearance and he said probably this is the best I can get. I asked him about vaginal sildenafil but he is not a fan of it.

I wonder should I try sildenafil anyway? My doctor once mentioned using low dose gonal-F to hyperstimulate my ovaries to make more of my own oestrogen, which seems to thicken my lining better. Do you think this would work? Also, do you think having endometriosis would cause a thin lining?

Thank you for answering my questions in advance.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

We really should talk!

I agree that you likely have endometriosis. However, the endometrial thickness issue is separate.

Your intramural fibroid of 2cm, provided it does not encroach on the uterine cavity and provided that the prior hysteroscopic myomectomy did not produce significant intrauterine scarring, should not prove probl;ematic:

Endometriosis and IVF:

When women with infertility due to endometriosis seek treatment, they are all too often advised to first try ovarian stimulation (ovulation Induction) with intrauterine insemination (IUI) ………as if to say that this would be just as likely to result in a baby as would in vitro fertilization (IVF). Nothing could be further from reality It is time to set the record straight. And hence this communication!
Bear in mind that the cost of treatment comprises both financial and emotional components and that it is the cost of having a baby rather than cost of a procedure. Then consider the fact that regardless of her age or the severity of the condition, women with infertility due to endometriosis are several fold more likely to have a baby per treatment cycle of IVF than with IUI. It follows that there is a distinct advantage in doing IVF first, rather than as a last resort.
So then, why is it that ovulation induction with or without IUI is routinely offered proposed preferentially to women with mild to moderately severe endometriosis? Could it in part be due to the fact that most practicing doctors do not provide IVF services but are indeed remunerated for ovarian stimulation and IUI services and are thus economically incentivized to offer IUI as a first line approach? Or is because of the often erroneous belief that the use of fertility drugs will in all cases induce the release (ovulation) of multiple eggs at a time and thereby increase the chance of a pregnancy. The truth however is that while normally ovulating women (the majority of women who have mild to moderately severe endometriosis) respond to ovarian stimulation with fertility drugs by forming multiple follicles, they rarely ovulate > 1 (or at most 2) egg at a time. This is because such women usually only develop a single dominant follicle which upon ovulating leaves the others intact. This is the reason why normally ovulating women who undergo ovulation induction usually will not experience improved pregnancy potential, nor will they have a marked increase in multiple pregnancies. Conversely, non-ovulating women (as well as those with dysfunctional ovulation) who undergo ovulation induction, almost always develop multiple large follicles that tend to ovulate in unison. This increases the potential to conceive along with an increased risk multiple pregnancies.

So let me take a stab at explaining why IVF is more successful than IUI or surgical correction in the treatment of endometriosis-related infertility:
1. The toxic pelvic factor: Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. While this process begins early in the reproductive life of a woman, with notable exceptions, it only becomes manifest in the 2ndhalf of her reproductive life. After some time, these deposits bleed and when the blood absorbs it leaves a visible pigment that can be identified upon surgical exposure of the pelvis. Such endometriotic deposits invariably produce and release toxins” into the pelvic secretions that coat the surface of the membrane (the peritoneum) that envelops all abdominal and pelvic organs, including the uterus, tubes and ovaries. These toxins are referred to as “the peritoneal factor”. Following ovulation, the egg(s) must pass from the ovary (ies), through these toxic secretions to reach the sperm lying in wait in the outer part the fallopian tube (s) tube(s) where, the sperm lie in waiting. In the process of going from the ovary(ies) to the Fallopian tube(s) these eggs become exposed to the “peritoneal toxins” which alter s the envelopment of the egg (i.e. zona pellucida) making it much less receptive to being fertilized by sperm. As a consequence, if they are chromosomally normal such eggs are rendered much less likely to be successfully fertilized. Since almost all women with endometriosis have this problem, it is not difficult to understand why they are far less likely to conceive following ovulation (whether natural or induced through ovulation induction). This “toxic peritoneal factor impacts on eggs that are ovulated whether spontaneously (as in natural cycles) or following the use of fertility drugs and serves to explain why the chance of pregnancy is so significantly reduced in normally ovulating women with endometriosis.
2. The Immunologic Factor: About one third of women who have endometriosis will also have an immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) linked to activation of uterine natural killer cells (NKa). This will require selective immunotherapy with Intralipid infusions, and/or heparinoids (e.g. Clexane/Lovenox) that is much more effectively implemented in combination with IVF.
3. Surgical treatment of mild to moderate endometriosis does not usually improve pregnancy potential:. The reason is that endometriosis can be considered to be a “work in progress”. New lesions are constantly developing. So it is that for every endometriotic seen there are usually many non-pigmented deposits that are in the process of evolving but are not yet visible to the naked eye and such evolving (non-visible) lesions can also release the same “toxins that compromise fertilization. Accordingly, even after surgical removal of all visible lesions the invisible ones continue to release “toxins” and retain the ability to compromise natural fertilization. It also explains why surgery to remove endometriotic deposits in women with mild to moderate endometriosis usually will fail to significantly improve pregnancy generating potential. In contrast, IVF, by removing eggs from the ovaries prior to ovulation, fertilizing these outside of the body and then transferring the resulting embryo(s) to the uterus, bypasses the toxic pelvic environment and is therefore is the treatment of choice in cases of endometriosis-related infertility.
4. Ovarian Endometriomas: Women, who have advanced endometriosis, often have endometriotic ovarian cysts, known as endometriomas. These cysts contain decomposed menstrual blood that looks like melted chocolate…hence the name “chocolate cysts”. These space occupying lesions can activate ovarian connective tissue (stroma or theca) resulting in an overproduction of male hormones (especially testosterone). An excess of ovarian testosterone can severely compromise follicle and egg development in the affected ovary. Thus there are two reasons for treating endometriomas. The first is to alleviate symptoms and the second is to optimize egg and embryo quality. Conventional treatment of endometriomas involves surgical drainage of the cyst contents with subsequent removal of the cyst wall (usually by laparoscopy), increasing the risk of surgical complications. We recently reported on a new, effective and safe outpatient approach to treating endometriomas in women planning to undergo IVF. We termed the treatment ovarian Sclerotherapy. The process involves; needle aspiration of the “chocolate colored liquid content of the endometriotic cyst, followed by the injection of 5% tetracycline hydrochloride into the cyst cavity. Such treatment will, more than 75% of the time result in disappearance of the lesion within 6-8 weeks. Ovarian sclerotherapy can be performed under local anesthesia or under conscious sedation. It is a safe and effective alternative to surgery for definitive treatment of recurrent ovarian endometriomas in a select group of patients planning to undergo IVF

I am not suggesting that all women with infertility-related endometriosis should automatically resort to IVF. Quite to the contrary…. In spite of having reduced fertility potential, many women with mild to moderate endometriosis can and do go on to conceive on their own (without treatment). It is just that the chance of this happening is so is much lower than normal.

IN SUMMARY: For young ovulating women (< 35 years of age ) with endometriosis, who have normal reproductive anatomy and have fertile male partners, expectant treatment is often preferable to IUI or IVF. However, for older women, women who (regardless of their age) have any additional factor (e.g. pelvic adhesions, ovarian endometriomas, male infertility, IID or diminished ovarian reserve-DOR) IVF should be the primary treatment of choice. Endometrial Thickness and Viagra therapy: It was as far back as 1989, when I first published a study that examined the correlation between the thickness of a woman’s uterine lining (the endometrium), and the subsequent successful implantation of embryos in IVF patients. This study revealed that when the uterine lining measured <8mm in thickness by the day of the “hCG trigger” (in fresh IVF cycles), or at the time of initiating progesterone therapy (in embryo recipient cycles, e.g. frozen embryo transfers-FET, egg donation-IVF etc.) , pregnancy and birth rates were substantially improved. Currently, it is my opinion, that an ideal estrogen-promoted endometrial lining should ideally measure at least 9mm in thickness and that an endometrial lining measuring 8-9mm is “intermediate”. An estrogenic lining of <8mm is in most cases unlikely to yield a viable pregnancy. A “poor” uterine lining is usually the result of the innermost layer of endometrium (the basal or germinal endometrium from which endometrium grows) ) not being able to respond to estrogen by propagating an outer, “functional” layer thick enough to support optimal embryo implantation and development of a healthy placenta (placentation). The “functional” layer ultimately comprises 2/3 of the full endometrial thickness and is the layer that sheds with menstruation in the event that no pregnancy occurs. The main causes of a “poor” uterine lining are: 1. Damage to the basal endometrium as a result of: a. Inflammation of the endometrium (endometritis) most commonly resulting from infected products left over following abortion, miscarriage or birth b. Surgical trauma due to traumatic uterine scraping, (i.e. due to an over-aggressive D & C) 2. Insensitivity of the basal endometrium to estrogen due to: a. Prolonged , over-use/misuse of clomiphene citrate b. Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES). This is a drug that was given to pregnant women in the 1960’s to help prevent miscarriage 3. Over-exposure of the uterine lining to ovarian male hormones (mainly testosterone): Older women, women with diminished ovarian reserve (poor responders) and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome -PCOS tend to have raised LH biological activity.. This causes the connective tissue in the ovary (stroma/theca) to overproduce testosterone. The effect can be further exaggerated when certain methods for ovarian stimulation such as agonist (Lupron/Buserelin) “flare” protocols and high dosages of menotropins such as Menopur are used in such cases. 4. Reduced blood flow to the basal endometrium: Examples include; a. Multiple uterine fibroids - especially when these are present under the endometrium (submucosal) b. Uterine adenomyosis (excessive, abnormal invasion of the uterine muscle by endometrial glands). “The Viagra Connection” Eighteen years ago years ago, after reporting on the benefit of vaginal Sildenafil (Viagra) for to women who had implantation dysfunction due to thin endometrial linings I was proud to announce the birth of the world’s first “Viagra baby.” Since the introduction of this form of treatment, thousands of women with thin uterine linings have been reported treated and many have gone on to have babies after repeated prior IVF failure. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the use of Viagra in IVF, allow me to provide some context. It was in the 90’s that Sildenafil (brand named Viagra) started gaining popularity as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. The mechanism by which it acted was through increasing penile blood flow through increasing nitric oxide activity. This prompted me to investigate whether Viagra administered vaginally, might similarly improve uterine blood flow and in the process cause more estrogen to be delivered to the basal endometrium and thereby increase endometrial thickening. We found that when Viagra was administered vaginally it did just that! However oral administration was without any significant benefit in this regard. We enlisted the services of a compound pharmacy to produce vaginal Viagra suppositories. Initially, four (4) women with chronic histories of poor endometrial development and failure to conceive following several advanced fertility treatments were evaluated for a period of 4-6 weeks and then underwent IVF with concomitant Viagra therapy. Viagra suppositories were administered four times daily for 8-11 days and were discontinued 5-7 days prior to embryo transfer in all cases. Our findings clearly demonstrated that vaginal Viagra produced a rapid and profound improvement in uterine blood flow and that was followed by enhanced endometrial development in all four cases. Three (3) of the four women subsequently conceived. I expanded the trial in 2002 and became the first to report on the administration of vaginal Viagra to 105 women with repeated IVF failure due to persistently thin endometrial linings. All of the women had experienced at least two (2) prior IVF failures attributed to intractably thin uterine linings. About 70% of these women responded to treatment with Viagra suppositories with a marked improvement in endometrial thickness. Forty five percent (45%) achieved live births following a single cycle of IVF treatment with Viagra The miscarriage rate was 9%. None of the women who had failed to show an improvement in endometrial thickness following Viagra treatment achieved viable pregnancies. Following vaginal administration, Viagra is rapidly absorbed and quickly reaches the uterine blood system in high concentrations. Thereupon it dilutes out as it is absorbed into the systemic circulation. This probably explains why treatment is virtually devoid of systemic side effects It is important to recognize that Viagra will NOT be effective in improving endometrial thickness in all cases. In fact, about 30%-40% of women treated fail to show any improvement. This is because in certain cases of thin uterine linings, the basal endometrium will have been permanently damaged and left unresponsive to estrogen. This happens in cases of severe endometrial damage due mainly to post-pregnancy endometritis (inflammation), chronic granulomatous inflammation due to uterine tuberculosis (hardly ever seen in the United States) and following extensive surgical injury to the basal endometrium (as sometimes occurs following over-zealous D&C’s). Combining vaginal Viagra Therapy with oral Terbutaline; In my practice I sometimes recommend combining Viagra administration with 5mg of oral terbutaline. The Viagra relaxes the muscle walls of uterine spiral arteries that feed the basal (germinal) layer of the endometrium while Terbutaline, relaxes the uterine muscle through which these spiral arteries pass. The combination of these two medications interacts synergistically to maximally enhance blood flow through the uterus, thereby improving estrogen delivery to the endometrial lining. The only drawback in using Terbutaline is that some women experience agitation, tremors and palpitations. In such cases the terbutaline should be discontinued. Terbutaline should also not be used women who have cardiac disease or in those who have an irregular heartbeat. About 75% of women with thin uterine linings see a positive response to treatment within 2-3 days. The ones that do not respond well to this treatment are those who have severely damaged inner (basal/germinal) endometrial linings, such that no improvement in uterine blood flow can coax an improved response. Such cases are most commonly the result of prior pregnancy-related endometrial inflammation (endometritis) that sometimes occurs post abortally or following infected vaginal and/or cesarean delivery. Viagra therapy has proven to be a god send to thousands of woman who because of a thin uterine lining would otherwise never have been able to successfully complete the journey “from infertility to family”. Uterine fibroids: Fibroids or leiomyomas are non-malignant muscle tumors that grow in the uterine wall. They can be found in about one out of every five (1:5) women >30Y of age. Fibroids are far more prevalent in African Americans and women and less frequent in other ethnic groups (i.e. Caucasians and Asians).
Fibroids, enlarge and/or distort uterine configuration. They can produce symptoms such as heavy, painful and prolonged menstrual periods. Other symptoms include pain with intercourse, backache, severe abdominal pain when large fibroids run out of blood supply or when superficial fibroids on a stem (pedunculated) undergo twisting (torsion). Sometimes fibroids will protrude into the uterine cavity, cause severe cramping and bleeding and so irritate the uterine lining as to compromise embryo attachment (anatomical implantation dysfunction). Women with fibroids are also at greater risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, malposition of the baby (mandating cesarean delivery) and an increased risk of bleeding after birth (post-partum hemorrhage)
Diagnosis can be made by one or more of the following symptoms/presentations: Symptomatology, pelvic examination pelvic ultrasound, hysterosalpingogram (HSG), sonohysterogram (HSN), CT-scan or MRI..
Fibroids are classified as:
• Submucosal: Here the fibroid grows just under the lining of the uterine cavity (mucosa) or protrudes into the uterine cavity. They might mold into the underlying uterine muscle (sessile) or be on a stalk (pedunculated). Submucosal fibroids can change the shape of the uterine cavity, irritate the lining and prevent implantation, cause miscarriage. These lesions must be removed in their entirety prior to undertaking embryo transfer, usually hysteroscopically. (see below)
• Subserosal: – Here the tumors grow under the outer layer (serosa) of the uterus. These fibroids will not compromise implantation, but if they are large, causing severe pain, and especially if they are multiple, pedunculated and thus at risk of undergoing torsion (twisting) the3y should be removed, usually laparoscopically. (See below).
• Intramural: – when the fibroids develop within the muscular wall of the uterus. This is the commonest presentation. Unless they are large and multiple and do not encroach on the uterine cavity, they can be left alone Surgical removal is usually by laparoscopy or laparotomy/abdominal open incision (See below)
The uterus is composed of a thick layer of smooth muscle (myometrium) surrounding the endometrial lining into which the embryo implants and which serves to protect and nourish a growing pregnancy. These tumors are rarely malignant (see below). Fibroid tumors, even large ones, can occur without producing any symptoms at all.
For the most part, only those fibroids that impinge upon the uterine (endometrial) cavity (submucosal) affect fertility. Exceptions include large fibroids in the muscle wall of the uterus (intramural) that can block the openings of the fallopian tubes as they enter the uterus, and where multiple fibroids cause abnormal uterine contraction patterns.
In some cases multiple uterine fibroids may so deprive the uterine lining (endometrium) of blood flow, that the delivery of estrogen to the endometrium is curtailed to the point that the lining cannot thicken sufficient to support a pregnancy. This can result in early 1st trimester (prior to the 13th week of pregnancy) miscarriages. Large or multiple fibroids, by curtailing the ability of the uterus to stretch in order to accommodate the spatial needs of a rapidly growing pregnancy, may precipitate 2nd trimester (beyond the 13th week) miscarriages and/or trigger the onset of premature labor.
Sizable fibroid tumors are usually easily identified by simple vaginal examination. However, even the smallest fibroid can be identified by transvaginal ultrasound. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if the fibroid is impinging on the uterine cavity. In such cases, a hysteroscopy (where a telescope like instrument, inserted via the vagina into the uterine cavity) or a sonohysterogram where injected fluid, distends the uterine cavity allowing for examination of its inner configuration can help distinguish between intramural and submucosal fibroids. CT scan and MRI can also be used to distinguish between fibroid tumors and another condition that also involves affects the uterine muscular wall, known as adenomyosis. This condition is characterized by endometrial tissue growing deeply into the uterine wall.. Given the often-diffuse nature of adenomyosis, it can be very difficult to remove surgically. This contrasts with fibroid tumors, which are well defined and are usually easily removed.
Surgical Treatment: The mainstay for the treatment of fibroid tumors is surgical removal (myomectomy). Small, asymptomatic fibroids that do not impinge upon the endometrial cavity will usually not require treatment other than observation and vigilance. Large fibroids and submucosal fibroids should be removed prior to starting fertility treatments such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in order to decrease the chance of implantation failure, miscarriage, pregnancy complications and premature labor. Intramural and subserosal fibroids are readily removable by laparoscopic resection or via an abdominal incision. The former allows for a more rapid convalescence and is ideal for the removal of small and accessible superficial fibroid tumors, while the latter approach is preferred for treating larger and less accessible fibroids.
Myomectomy can affect fertility in several ways. If the endometrial cavity is entered during the surgery, there is a possibility of post adhesions forming within the uterine cavity. This should always be checked by the performance of a hysteroscopy or through a \sonohysterogram, prior to beginning fertility treatment. Because myomectomy can be bloody, there is a high likelihood of post-operative abdominal adhesion formation, which could bind down or encase the ovaries, preventing the release of the eggs, or block the ends of the fallopian tubes. For this reason, it is important that myomectomies be formed only by accomplished surgeons, who are familiar with techniques to limit blood loss and prevent adhesion formation.
Regardless of whether the laparoscopic or abdominal approach is employed, adequate closure of the uterine wall is essential in order to reduce the subsequent risk of uterine rupture during pregnancy or labor. This is one of the main arguments used against the use of laparoscopic removal of large, multiple or remotely situated fibroids. While laparoscopic myomectomy requires but a few days (at most) for post-operative convalescence, abdominal myomectomy usually requires 6-8 weeks of recovery time. When myomectomy necessitates or results in the uterine cavity being entered (purposefully or inadvertently), it should always be followed up with a “2nd look” hysteroscopy to rule out scar tissue formation, which occurs frequently in the presence of submucosal fibroids.
Uterine polyps (and in some cases, also submucosal fibroids), can usually be removed hysteroscopically (through the vagina). This eliminates the need for abdominal surgery and greatly reduces the recovery time. Hysteroscopic surgery is only useful if the majority of the fibroid protrudes into the endometrial cavity, ensuring that the tumor defect will not be too large. This surgery is often done under laparoscopic guidance, to reduce the risk of uterine perforation. After hysteroscopic surgery it is often advisable to prescribe cyclical hormonal therapy for a few months to encourage regeneration of the endometrial lining over the area of tumor defect and healing of the uterine muscle. A 2nd look hysteroscopy should be performed a few months later in all cases, to rule out scar tissue formation even if it means delaying or deferring the initiation of definitive fertility treatment.
Medical Treatment: The growth of fibroid tumors is estrogen-dependent. Thus when a woman enters menopause and stops making female hormones, fibroids tend to shrink in size on their own. Conditions that mimic menopause can also reduce the size of fibroid tumors. The most common of theses treatment is with a medication such as leuprolide acetate (Lupron), which shuts off the communication of the brain with the ovaries, preventing hormone production. However, this type of medication can only be taken for a limited period (usually 6 months) and once the medication is stopped the fibroids will usually regain their original size within a few months. The medication is therefore only a “temporary fix,” used mostly to decrease the size of large fibroids in order to make their ultimate surgical removal easier, or to help a woman bridge the gap until spontaneous menopause sets in. For the majority of women there is no major benefit from Lupron therapy prior to surgery.
Embolization of Fibroid Tumors: Myomectomy always carries the small (although infrequent) risk that severe, uncontrollable intra-operative bleeding could require the performance of a hysterectomy (complete removal of the uterus) as a life saving measure. Moreover, some women are poor candidates for surgery. This is where a new procedure known as embolization comes in. Embolization is a procedure in which small particles are injected into the arteries of the uterus under radiological guidance to shut off the blood supply to the fibroids, in the hope that they will “shrink” and perhaps, even disappear.
Embolization is relatively new to the field of gynecology and little is known about its potential effects on future fertility. We are concerned that in the process of shutting off the blood supply to the uterus, it will permanently so reduce endometrial blood flow, as to compromise embryo implantation. For this reason, I do not currently recommend this therapy for women who still wish to conceive and carry a baby in their uterus. At present, it seems best suited for symptomatic women who are finished with their childbearing or who are planning to use a gestational surrogate.
Malignant Change in Fibroid Tumors: Fibroids rarely undergo malignant change. The reported incidence is less than 1 in 2000 cases. Fibroids usually grow very slowly (over a number of years). However, when growth occurs rapidly over a month or two, especially in older women who have large fibroids, it should raise the suspicion of this very rare but extremely serious complication.

I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
• The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS)
• The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
• Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF:
• The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 1-Background
• Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
• Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID): PART 3-Treatment
• Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management: (Case Report)
• Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; how it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
• Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas
• Should IVF Treatment Cycles be provided uninterrupted or be Conducted in 7-12 Pre-scheduled “Batches” per Year
• A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
• How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF?
• Endometriosis and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) and IVF
• Endometriosis and Infertility: Why IVF Rather than IUI or Surgery Should be the Treatment of Choice.
• Endometriosis and Infertility: The Influence of Age and Severity on Treatment Options
• Early -Endometriosis-related Infertility: Ovulation Induction (with or without Intrauterine Insemination) and Reproductive Surgery Versus IVF
• Treating Ovarian Endometriomas with Sclerotherapy.
• Effect of Advanced Endometriosis with Endometriotic cysts (Endometriomas) on IVF Outcome & Treatment Options.
• Deciding Between Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
• Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Who Needs it & who Does Not: Pro’s &
• Induction of Ovulation with Clomiphene Citrate: Mode of Action, Indications, Benefits, Limitations and Contraindications for its use
• Clomiphene Induction of Ovulation: Its Use and Misuse!

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ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

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Febbie

Thank you so much for your reply!! I am currently waiting for my immunological testing results. I will arrange a consultation with you once I get the results. I am really desperate for more answers.

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Colette

We were unable to get the compounded form in time and so I am just doing regular 25mg pills vaginally 4x a day. Could this still be effective?

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Because after the hCG trigger it ha=s no additional benefit. Endometrial cell proliferation ceases at the point that progesterone is released and besides, the progesterone relaxes the uterine and blood vessel walls allowing for enhanced blood flow.

Geoff Sher

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