March is National Endometriosis Month. Endometriosis is a disorder affecting 10% of women in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, grows outside of the uterine cavity. This tissue grows on the ovaries, bowel, and tissues lining the pelvis. Rarely, it can spread beyond the pelvic region. Among other symptoms, endometriosis can cause mild to severe pain during menstrual periods, during and after sex, and with bowel movements or urination.
While there is no definitive cure for endometriosis, there are interventional treatment options available to significantly reduce pain associated with the disorder without surgery! One option is a special type of simple nerve block called a Superior Hypogastric Plexus block. The superior hypogastric plexus is a group of nerves which are responsible for controlling blood flow and sensation to the organs in the pelvic region. When pain occurs in the pelvis, pain signals are transmitted through the Superior hypogastric plexus.
The superior hypogastric plexus block is a quick, minimally-invasive procedure that usually takes less than 10 minutes. Under fluoroscopic guidance (special type of xray), anesthetic is injected to inhibit pain signals through the superior hypogastric plexus. When these nerves are blocked, pain in the pelvic area is relieved and circulation is increased. The extent and duration of pain relief varies from patient to patient. Some experience relief for only a few weeks while others can experience relief for years. However, the low risk and minimally invasive nature of the procedure allow for multiple treatments if necessary.