Endometriosis - Diagnosis

Diagnosis

A health history and a physical examination can in many patients lead the physician to suspect endometriosis. Laparoscopy, a surgical procedure where a camera is used to look inside the abdominal cavity, is the gold standard in diagnosis. However, in the United States most insurance plans will not cover surgical diagnosis unless the patient has already attempted to become pregnant and failed.

Use of imaging tests may identify endometriotic cysts or larger endometriotic areas. It also may identify free fluid often within the Recto-uterine pouch. The two most common imaging tests are ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Normal results on these tests do not eliminate the possibility of endometriosis. Areas of endometriosis are often too small to be seen by these tests.

The only way to diagnose endometriosis is by laparoscopy or other types of surgery with lesion biopsy. The diagnosis is based on the characteristic appearance of the disease, and should be corroborated by a biopsy. Surgery for diagnoses also allows for surgical treatment of endometriosis at the same time.

Although doctors can often feel the endometrial growths during a pelvic exam, and these symptoms may be signs of endometriosis, diagnosis cannot be confirmed without performing a laparoscopic procedure. To the eye, lesions can appear dark blue, powder-burn black, red, white, yellow, brown or non-pigmented. Lesions vary in size. Some within the pelvis walls may not be visible, as normal-appearing peritoneum of infertile women reveals endometriosis on biopsy in 6–13% of cases. Early endometriosis typically occurs on the surfaces of organs in the pelvic and intra-abdominal areas. Health care providers may call areas of endometriosis by different names, such as implants, lesions, or nodules. Larger lesions may be seen within the ovaries as ovarian endometriomas or "chocolate cysts", "chocolate" because they contain a thick brownish fluid, mostly old blood.

Often the symptoms of ovarian cancer are identical to those of endometriosis.

If surgery is not performed, then a diagnosis of exclusion process is used. This means that all of the other plausible causes of pelvic pain are ruled out. For example, internal hernias are difficult to identify in women, and misdiagnosis with endometriosis is very common. One cause of misdiagnosis is that when the woman lies down flat on an examination table, all of the medical signs of the hernia disappear, but the woman typically has tenderness and other symptoms associated with endometriosis in a pelvic exam. The hernia can typically only be detected when symptoms are present, so diagnosis requires positioning the woman's body in a way that provokes symptoms.

Read more about this topic:  Endometriosis

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