Deep endometriosis: Definition, diagnosis and treatment

Deep endometriosis remains a subject of debate. A comprehensive overview of the definition, pathophysiology, prevalence, classification, diagnosis, and treatment was therefore attempted.


Philippe R. Koninckx, Ph.D., Anastasia Ussia, M.D., Leila Adamyan, Ph.D., Arnaud Wattiez, Ph.D., Jacques Donnez, Ph.D.

Vol 98, Issue 3, Pages 564-571


Deep endometriosis, defined as adenomyosis externa, mostly presents as a single nodule, larger than 1 cm in diameter, in the vesicouterine fold or close to the lower 20 cm of the bowel. When diagnosed, most nodules are no longer progressive. In >95% of cases, deep endometriosis is associated with very severe pain (in >95%) and is probably a cofactor in infertility. Its prevalence is estimated to be 1% –2%. Deep endometriosis is suspected clinically and can be confirmed by ultrasonography or magnetic resonance imaging. Contrast enema is useful to evaluate the degree of sigmoid occlusion. Surgery requires expertise to identify smaller nodules in the bowel wall, and difficulty increases with the size of the nodules. Excision is feasible in over 90% of cases often requiring suture of the bowel muscularis or full-thickness defects. Segmental bowel resections are rarely needed except for sigmoid nodules. Deep endometriosis often involves the ureter causing hydronephrosis in some 5% of cases. The latter is associated with 18% ureteral lesions. Deep endometriosis surgery is associated with late complications such as late bowel and ureteral perforations, and recto-vaginal and uretero-vaginal fistulas. Although rare, these complications require expertise in follow-up and laparoscopic management. Pain relief after surgery is excellent and some 50% of women will conceive spontaneously, despite often severe adhesions after surgery. Recurrence of deep endometriosis is rare. In conclusion, defined as adenomyosis externa, deep endometriosis is a rarely a progressive and recurrent disease. The treatment of choice is surgical excision, while bowel resection should be avoided, except for the sigmoid.

Read the full text at: