Choosing the right surgical technique for deep endometriosis: shaving, disc excision, or bowel resection?

Shaving should be the surgical treatment of choice for deep rectovaginal endometriosis. If inadequate, disc excision may help. Segmental resection should be reserved for major stenosis or multiple nodules.
Choosing the right surgical technique for deep endometriosis: shaving, disc excision, or bowel resection?

Volume 108, Issue 6, Pages 931–942


Olivier Donnez, M.D., Ph.D., Horace Roman, M.D., Ph.D.


Deep endometriosis (DE) remains the most difficult endometriotic entity to treat. Medical treatment for DE can reduce symptoms but does not cure the disease, and surgical removal of the lesion is required when lesions are symptomatic, impairing bowel, urinary, sexual, and reproductive functions. Although several surgical techniques such as laparoscopic bowel resection, disc excision, and rectal shaving have been described, there is no consensus regarding the choice of technique or the timing of surgery. Our review of publications reporting results and complications of surgery for rectovaginal DE reveals a relatively higher complication rate after bowel resection compared with shaving and disc excision, especially for rectovaginal fistulas, anastomotic leakage, delayed hemorrhage, and long-term bladder catheterization. Data show that shaving is feasible even in advanced disease. The risk of immediate complications after shaving and disc excision is probably lower than after colorectal resection, allowing for better functional outcomes. The presumed higher risk of recurrence related to shaving has not been demonstrated. For these reasons, surgeons should consider rectal shaving as a first-line surgical treatment of rectovaginal DE, regardless of nodule size or association with other digestive localizations. When the result of rectal shaving is unsatisfactory (rare cases), disc excision may be performed either exclusively by laparoscopy or by using transanal staplers. Segmental resection may ultimately be reserved for advanced lesions responsible for major stenosis or for several cases of multiple nodules infiltrating the rectosigmoid junction or sigmoid colon.

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