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Postmenopausal Bleeding in a Woman with a Stenotic Cervix

12/1/2015 - Rebecca Jackson, MD

Mentor: Sandra Dayaratna, MD

Editor: Eduardo Lara-Torre, MD

Postmenopausal bleeding (PMB), defined as any bleeding which occurs greater than 12 months after the final menstrual period, requires evaluation because of the 1-14% risk of endometrial cancer. More than 90% of women with endometrial cancer initially present with PMB. The evaluation becomes more challenging in women with cervical stenosis. Cervical stenosis typically occurs at the level of the internal os and prevents entry into the uterine cavity.  Cervical stenosis may also occur at the external os, which can prevent either identification of the os or passage of instruments. Cervical stenosis increases the risk of cervical laceration and uterine perforation.

The initial evaluation of postmenopausal bleeding may be either by transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) or by endometrial biopsy. In a woman with known or suspected cervical stenosis, TVUS is preferred. An endometrial thickness less than or equal to 4 mm has a 99% negative predictive value for endometrial cancer. If TVUS demonstrates an endometrial thickness > 4 mm, or if bleeding continues after a normal ultrasound, histologic diagnosis is necessary. This can be accomplished with an office biopsy or with a hysteroscopy and dilation and curettage (D&C). Sonohysterography can be helpful in identifying focal lesions. All of these modalities require passing an instrument through the cervix.

Both osmotic dilators and cervical ripening agents have been evaluated as agents to facilitate access into the uterine cavity. Laminaria have their maximal effect in 24 hours and have been used in women before hysteroscopy and D&C. Misoprostol has also been shown to be effective in assisting with uterine entry. In menopausal women, misoprostol appears to be more effective if given 12-24 hours prior to the procedure. Mechanical dilation can be achieved with small flexible dilators (“os finders”) or more rigid instruments such as a lacrimal duct probe or a 1-4 mm Hegar dilator.

Transabdominal ultrasound, performed with a full bladder can be used intra-operatively to guide instruments into the uterus and to decrease the chances of uterine perforation or creation of a false passage. Intracervical injection of a dilute vasopressin solution has also been reported to facilitate entry into the uterine cavity as it appears to soften the cervix and make it more receptive to mechanical dilation.

If these methods fail, further surgical methods can be attempted, such as incising the stenotic cervical dimple, or performing a cervical conization to resect the stenotic area.

There have been reports of the endometrium being sampled without traversing the cervix. An 18 or 20-gauge spinal needle attached to a syringe can be inserted though the vagina, through the anterior uterine wall, and into the endometrial cavity.

If all these attempts fail and the bleeding persists, a discussion about the risks and benefits of hysterectomy should be undertaken with the patient.

Further Reading:

Initial Approval: August 2015, Revised September 2018.

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This document is designed to aid practitioners in providing appropriate obstetric and gynecologic care. Recommendations are derived from major society guidelines and high quality evidence when available, supplemented by the opinion of the author and editorial board when necessary. It should not be construed as dictating an exclusive course of treatment or procedure to be followed.

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