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On High Volume Gynecologic Surgery, and How to Pick A Surgeon for Your Hysterectomy

If you had a serious issue with your knee and needed a surgeon to repair it, how would go about picking that surgeon?   If you were like most people, you would find the most experienced and best surgeon in your area, at least within whatever in

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surance network you might belong to.  And that would make sense, as the experience level of your surgeon is a strong predictor of outcomes, including complications of surgery.

So you would assume that this would be similar for all types of surgery, correct?  People of reasonable means will seek out the best and most experienced surgeon for whatever type of surgery they need, whether it be neurosurgery, bowel surgery, or in this case, gynecologic surgery.

The troubling thing is that in the case of gynecologic surgery, that would be wrong.   In fact, the majority of gynecologic surgery in this country is performed by relatively inexperienced surgeons who research would suggest will have a higher rate of complications than more experienced surgeons.

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Why Don’t Doctors Do Their Tubals in the Most Reversible Way?

November 8, 2017 2 comments

Syndicated from Tubal Reversal Northwest

 

Nicholas Fogelson, MD

As physicians that spend time helping women to restore fertility after a previous sterilization surgery, one is often left to ponder why some physicians who perform sterilizations do it in a way that makes it very difficult to reverse, when the don’t have to do that.  Specifically, there are techniques to very effectively cause permanent tubal sterilization while still preserving most of the Fallopian tube and making a reversal highly likely to succeed.  There are also ways of causing tubal sterility that will leave so little healthy tube that a reversal is much more difficult.  So wouldn’t it make sense to do the former?  It would seem so, but many surgeons don’t do this.

It really comes down to how obstetricians are trained.  We are trained that a sterilization surgery is permanent, and as such any sort of effort to make it more “reversible” would be a betrayal of the very reason we are doing the procedure.  That is, is the woman wanted a reversible method of birth control, she could get an IUD or use oral contraceptives instead of having a permanent sterilization surgery.  There is also the thought that somehow doing a more reversible tubal sterilization would decrease the effectiveness of that surgery, and further be a betrayal of the original purpose of the surgery.

The reality though, is that all of this is wrong.  First of all, it is a fact that many women who have sterilization surgery decide later in their life that they would like their fertility restored and to have another child.  This is particularly true when women have their children when they are still quite young.  In many cases a woman who has had two or three children by her early twenties feels certain she never wants another child, and has a sterilization.  At the time it makes sense and she feels sure about her decision.  Fast forward ten years, she is a different person than she was when she made the decision, perhaps married to a new partner, and feels like she would like another child.  This just happens so frequently that we have to realize that while a tubal sterilization is “permanent”, its possible that reversal will be desired one day.  As such, wouldn’t it make sense to do it in a way that is reversible as possible?

Second, some may be concerned that by doing a more reversible tubal sterilization, it would be less effective.   This is just wrong, and the data doesn’t bear this out.  In fact, many physicians use a technique that is both the least reversible AND the most likely to fail.  That makes no sense, but its true.

There are two techniques that are optimal for creating the most successful sterilization that is ALSO the most reversible.  The key thing is the amount of tube that is destroyed in the sterilization, as success rates in reversal are high related to how much tube is left to bring back together in the reversal surgery.

The most effective and reversible techniques are 1) a partial salpingectomy that removes a minimal piece of tube from each side (i.e. 1-1.5 cm of tube) or 2) the use of a Filschie clip, which destroys less than centimeter of fallopian tube. Both of these are associated with less than 1% failure rate over 10 years, and as long as minimal tube is removed has a high likelihood of being reversible if such a procedure is required.  A third option is a Falope ring, which can be used to remove a small amount of tube, though it can also remove more tube and is technique dependent.

The alternate technique of using bipolar cautery to dessicate and destroy a segment of tube is less reversible because it inevitably destroys more tube, sometimes dramatically more if the surgeon is zealous with the use of the cautery in a desire to guarantee sterility.  That said, the rate of failure with this technique is 2-3% over 10 years.  So why do surgeons ever do this, with its higher failure rates and less reversibility?  Hard to say.  Makes no sense.

In our opinion, the easiest tubal to reverse is one done with a Filschie clip, which destroys very little of the tube, as seen here (Courtesy of Dr. Modi / Youtube).  It is also the most effective, with a less than 1% failure rate at 10 years.

Another good technique that doesn’t damage very much of the tube is a Falope Ring, seen here (Courtesy of Dr Sakon / Youtube):

Other techniques are far less reversible.  The Essure technique is a permanent device that is placed via a hysteroscope and is quite difficult to reverse, with reversal success is around 30% with the best techniques available.  Sterilization via cautery to the tubes can be difficult to reverse if a significant portion of the tube is injured.  Salpingectomy (complete removal of the tubes) or fimriectomy (removal of the end of the tube) are both techniques that are either difficult or impossible to reverse.

So if you are a woman that is planning to do a permanent sterilization, be sure you don’t want further children, because reversal may not be possible.  But at the same time, realize that sometimes people change their minds, and your doctor has different options on how the sterilization can be performed.  A small partial salpingectomy, Filshie Clip, or Falope Ring will lead to the minimum tubal destruction required for infertility, while leaving the most possible tube in case a reversal is ever required.

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Drs Fogelson and Rosenfield of Tubal Reversal Northwest (dba Pearl Women’s Center) are available for clinical consultation for women seeking reversal of previous sterilization surgery.   Call 503-771-1883 of an appointment for consultation.

 

 

Categories: Gynecology

On Hysterectomies and Hysterectomy Alternatives

Every now and then physicians have a clarifying moment that really helps to define the way we think about how to take care of our patients.  I had such a moment when I was a third year resident.

The patient was an HIV positive woman who was somewhat ill, who had problems with severe uterine bleeding.   Her workup demonstrated that she had a 3 centimeter submucosal fibroid, meaning that she had a fibroid that was inside her uterine cavity.  This type of fibroid can cause severe bleeding, and needs to be removed to resolve the problem.  She had tried a number of medical therapies, but not surprisingly they weren’t working for her.  At the time I remember thinking that she could benefit from a hysterectomy, but was worried that she wasn’t a very well woman and I wanted to do something less invasive.
I posted the patient for a hysteroscopic myomectomy, which is a procedure to remove the offending fibroid with a scope put up through the vagina and cervix, with no incisions in the abdomen.   As we didn’t have the fancy intrauterine morcellators that we now have that make these procedures much easier, it was a fairly challenging case to complete, both because it was a relatively large fibroid to tackle this way and because as a third year resident I was not highly skilled at the procedure.uterus

Ultimately, the procedure was difficult.  In fact, we were not able to complete it in a single surgery and had to come back to the OR a second day to finish it (which was not uncommon using the technology available at that time.)  In the process of the procedure, my attending physician Dr David Soper was critical of my decision to do the hysteroscopic procedure.  He asked several critical questions.  “Did she plan on future childbearing?”  The answer to this was no, as the patient was
actually quite ill with HIV related illness.  “Did she specifically desire to keep her uterus?”  The answer to this was also no.  With these two answers, he asked “So if you can do this in three hours and maybe not succeed, and she may still have bleeding issues even if you succeed, AND you could do a vaginal hysterectomy in half the time and that would have a 100% chance of solving her problem, why again are we doing this and not the vaginal hysterectomy?” (this was before the age of the laparoscopic hysterectomy.)

The reality is that I didn’t have a good answer.  The bad answer was that I had been taught to be afraid of doing hysterectomies.   I had been taught that a hysterectomy is what you do when nothing else had worked.  And there were things I hadn’t tried yet, so I didn’t do the hysterectomy that would have worked 100% of the time.

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Categories: Gynecology, Surgery

Why Healthcare in America is So Expensive Part 2 – Surgical Equipment

February 27, 2017 5 comments

With this essay we embark on a journey through the world of medical cost.   In my last essay, I argued that while our government struggles to create a system that pays for the healthcare system we have, the true problem is the outrageou
s cost of that system, not how we pay for it.

Today, we will examine the surgical equipment industry, and how expensive i
nnovation and technology is valued over actual contribution to patient outcomes, and how every incentive exists to make medical equipment as expensive as possible.

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A few years ago, I was involved in a project with a number of students from Georgia Tech’s biomedical engineering department.   I had an idea to solve a basic problem in laparoscopic surgery, and these students were charged with cSurgical-Instruments-11.jpg
reating a prototype solution to the idea.  We came up with an elegant solution to an issue that occurred in every laparoscopic surgery in this country, and eventually the students presented this idea as their senior project for their degrees.

Subsequently, I approached my University’s Technology Transfer department (the group that helps faculty to commercialize their ideas.)  We went through a process of idea disclosure with the hope that the University would help me to bring this idea to market.  In the end, though, it fizzled.    They said they weren’t interested in developing the idea.  So I approached several industry groups.   Again, no interest.  Over time I talked with three different groups that develops ideas, and no one was interested.

The kicker of all of this is that the lack if industry interest had nothing to do with the utility of my invention.  In fact, all parties agreed that the idea was great and the solution was elegant.  They also agreed that they could imagine the device in practice.   The problem wasn’t that the device wasn’t a good one, it was that the device was too simple, and too inexpensive to manufacture.  I had imagined a device that would probably cost about 5 dollars in every surgical pack.  In the end, the development market had little interest in such a device, given what it costs to develop bring a device to market and the likely payout at the end.  This thing actually saved money in time and in replacement of more expensive equipment already in use in the OR.   But what I found out was that there wasn’t much interest in devices that causes industry to make less money.

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Thoughts on Hemodynamic Instability, Laparoscopy, and Ectopic Pregnancies

As a young physician, I was taught that when a patient presents with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and was hemodynamically unstable, the corimagesrect course was to perform a laparotomy for immediate control of the bleeding.  At that time (around the year 2000), complex laparoscopy was not really in wide practice, a
nd a physician who suggested that they could control bleeding laparoscopically as quickly as they could via laparotomy would have been met with skepticism.  In some cases, a physician suggesting a laparoscopic approach to the problem might be blocked by the atten

ding anesthesiologist, who often holds veto power over certain surgical decisions.  The idea was that the bleeding needs to be stopped quickly, and the way to do that is a laparotomy.

But over time, our ability to do things quickly and effectively via laparoscopy has changed, and I think our understanding of hemodynamic instability in young women has changed as well.

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The Important of Estrogen Replacement after Surgical and Natural Menopause

November 11, 2016 2 comments

Last night the Portland OB/GYN Society, of which I am the current president, had the honor of hosting Dr Philip Sarrel to speak on the important topic of replacing estrogen in women who have experienced surgical menopause at an early age.   His talk was fantastic, and illustrated the extreme importance of replacing estrogen in any woman who has experienced an unnatural loss of estrogen early in her life, and the ongoing benefit of estrogen replacement after menopause as well.   I encourage you to review this video, which describes the findings of his research and his point of view, which I entirely agree with.

What was truly striking to me was the number of women who have had their ovaries removed at an early age.  It saddens me, as I know that in many cases this is because of pelvic pain and endometriosis.  While oophorectomy often does improve and in some cases even eliminate endometriosis pain, with proper resection of the the disease we can often achieve substantial and even complete pain relief while preserving ovarian function.

This is definitely worth a watch.

Categories: Gynecology, Uncategorized

Birth Control Pills and Depression

October 7, 2016 1 comment

This week a study was published in JAMA Psychology drawing a connection between the use of birth control pills and depression.   This was picked up in the popular press, and briefly we were hearing about it in the news and radio.  I first heard about on my way to work listening to NPR.   The message I got was that a study was just published that showed  a link between the use of birth control pills and the development of new depression.

photolibrary_rf_photo_of_birth_control_pillsToday I read the actual paper that led to this media frenzy, and not surprisingly the media got it at least partially wrong.

Skovlund et al reported the following

“A total of 1 061 997 women (mean [SD] age, 24.4 [0.001] years; mean [SD] follow-up, 6.4 [0.004] years) were included in the analysis. Compared with nonusers, users of combined oral contraceptives had an RR of first use of an antidepressant of 1.23 (95% CI, 1.22-1.25). Users of progestogen-only pills had an RR for first use of an antidepressant of 1.34 (95% CI, 1.27-1.40); users of a patch (norgestrolmin), 2.0 (95% CI, 1.76-2.18); users of a vaginal ring (etonogestrel), 1.6 (95% CI, 1.55-1.69); and users of a levonorgestrel intrauterine system, 1.4 (95% CI, 1.31-1.42). For depression diagnoses, similar or slightly lower estimates were found. The relative risks generally decreased with increasing age. Adolescents (age range, 15-19 years) using combined oral contraceptives had an RR of a first use of an antidepressant of 1.8 (95% CI, 1.75-1.84) and those using progestin-only pills, 2.2 (95% CI, 1.99-2.52). Six months after starting use of hormonal contraceptives, the RR of antidepressant use peaked at 1.4 (95% CI, 1.34-1.46). When the reference group was changed to those who never used hormonal contraception, the RR estimates for users of combined oral contraceptives increased to 1.7 (95% CI, 1.66-1.71).”

In summary, women who used birth control pills were more likely to also use antidepressants.   They concluded that women who use birth control use antidepressants more often, and thus they may be more likely to be depressed.

Here’s what I think about this.

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