AAGL Study Finds Women Still in the Dark about Minimally Invasive Treatments for Pelvic Health Disorders
Women expect doctors to educate, but awareness gaps are significant
Cypress, CA · August 13, 2008 /PRNewswire/ – A new awareness study found that virtually all women expect their OB/GYN to inform them about minimally invasive treatments for common pelvic health disorders (PHDs), yet comparatively few are aware of the newer treatments designed to cause less pain and provide shorter recoveries. Russell Research conducted the study for AAGL, the preeminent organization of gynecologic endoscopic surgeons.
"I expect my OB/GYN to tell me about the least invasive treatments, even if he or she doesn't offer them and would need to refer me to someone else," was the near-universal assumption (98%). Women expect their gynecologist to offer them treatment options with the least amount of pain (98%) and to consider how treatment will affect their lifestyle — factors such as recovery time, lost wages and additional child care costs (94%).
The survey results revealed that women's expectations are not being met:
- Endometrial ablation is over 90 percent effective in providing relief from heavy menstrual bleeding, but less than half of those suffering from heavy bleeding had ever heard of it.
- Myomectomy, a minimally invasive procedure for removing fibroids, relieves heavy bleeding due to fibroids in 90 percent of cases. Only 45 percent of women with fibroids were aware of this option.
- Sling procedures are effective in treating women with mild to moderate Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) and in some cases can be performed on an outpatient basis with no incisions. Two-thirds of those with SUI had never heard of sling procedures.
"This survey confirms what we have long suspected – that women with PHDs are not being fully informed about the range of available treatment options," said Charles E. Miller, MD, President of AAGL. "When half of women suffering from a given condition are unaware that they may be candidates for a minimally invasive procedure that spares them pain, time and disruption of their lives, there is a clear need for stronger efforts in patient education."
Women did agree however, that they should be more proactive by asking for alternatives (97%) and are quite likely to pursue a second opinion if they think they may be a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure that their own doctor does not offer (90%).
Four types of PHDs are prevalent among women of childbearing age: stress urinary incontinence or SUI; abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding; fibroids (non-cancerous uterine growths); and pelvic organ prolapse (when female organs shift position due to weakened muscles). In this survey, one out of every two women reported experiencing one or more PHD.
Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes) continues to be the procedure most commonly used for PHDs other than SUI. The most common type of hysterectomy is the total abdominal hysterectomy or TAH, which is performed through an open abdominal incision and carries all the normal risks of major surgery such as bleeding, infection and anesthesia.
Less than four women in ten realized that TAH is associated with a three to six-day hospitalization, a four to six-inch scar, and a long and painful recovery period of a month to six weeks.
In contrast to a TAH, a laparoscopic hysterectomy is a minimally invasive technique that can be done on an outpatient basis and enables most women to resume normal activities within a week. Less than half of the women surveyed were aware that this option exists.
Even fewer (40%) were aware that other minimally invasive treatments might let them avoid hysterectomy or open surgery altogether.
Historically doctors have been the number one source of information for women's health, but in this survey the Internet was on a par with doctors as a preferred source of information about gynecologic minimally invasive procedures. Forty-two percent and 43 percent cited the Internet and their gynecologist, respectively, as the first place they would go to learn more about their gynecologic options.
"The AAGL is committed to patient education as a key to increasing women's access to minimally invasive procedures," said Dr. Miller. To that end, the organization has recently added a more robust patient education section to its web site at www.aagl.org/topics.
"When women are fully informed about their condition and the available treatments, they feel more confident in exploring their options with their OB/GYNs. This simple step could help thousands of women avoid the pain and extended recovery associated with open surgery," Miller added.
A summary of the full survey is available on www.aagl.org/press-releases.
This survey was conducted among 526 women aged 18+ via the Internet by Russell Research, an independent research company based in New York City. The margin of error for the sample is 526 +/-4.4%.
The AAGL is a not-for-profit organization of physicians dedicated to advancing the safest, most efficacious and least invasive diagnostic and therapeutic techniques to treat women's pelvic health disorders. Founded in 1971, it is the first and largest organization in the world dedicated to gynecologic endoscopic and minimally invasive surgery. The AAGL's commitment to women's health care, which historically has been embodied in the integration of clinical practice, research, innovation, dialogue and continuing education of physicians, now encompasses outreach to and education of patients as well.