Treatment of pain associated with deep endometriosis Alternatives and evidence

Combined hormonal contraceptives and progestogens are the first-line treatments of deep infiltrating endometriosis-associated pain; surgery should be considered in patients with pain symptoms persisting during hormonal therapy.


Simone Ferrero, Ph.D., Franco Alessandri, M.D., Annalisa Racca, M.D., Umberto Leone Roberti Maggiore, M.D.

Volume 104, Issue 4, Pages 771-792


Pain is the most evident clinical manifestation of deep infiltrating endometriosis (DIE). Several hormonal and immunologic mechanisms are markedly altered in DIE compared with superficial peritoneal and ovarian endometriosis, and may explain its most aggressive behavior and the presence of severe pain symptoms. Hormonal therapies, such as combined hormonal contraceptives and progestogens, should be regarded as first-line treatment, as they are efficacious, safe, and well tolerated. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists may be used in patients with symptoms persisting after the administration of first-line therapies. Scanty literature is available for danazol treatment in patients with DIE and, however, it has become less popular due to the high rates of androgenic adverse events (AEs). The partial relief of pain that often is achieved with available therapies and its recurrence after the suspension of the treatment have brought to the development of new therapies (such as aromatase inhibitors, oral GnRH antagonists) that are currently under investigation. Surgical excision of DIE should be considered in patients with pain symptoms persisting after first-line hormonal therapies. The benefits of surgery in terms of pain improvement should be always balanced with the risk of intraoperative complications and for this reason surgical cases should be referred to tertiary centers for the treatment of DIE. A multidisciplinary approach is mandatory in patients with DIE involving the bowel and/or the urinary tract.

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