Surgery versus medical therapy for heavy menstrual bleeding

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Apr 19;(2):CD003855. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003855.pub2.


Background: Heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB) significantly impairs the quality of life of many otherwise healthy women. Perception of HMB is subjective and management usually depends upon what symptoms are acceptable to the individual. Medical treatment options include oral medication and a hormone-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS). Surgical options include conservative surgery (uterine resection or ablation) and hysterectomy.

Objectives: To compare the effectiveness, safety and acceptability of surgery versus medical therapy for HMB.

Search strategy: In September 2005 we searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group trials register Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2005), MEDLINE EMBASE, Current Contents, Biological Abstracts, PsycINFO, and CINAHL. We also searched reference lists of articles retrieved and contacted pharmaceutical companies and experts in the field.

Selection criteria: Controlled randomised trials comparing conservative surgery or hysterectomy versus medical therapy (oral or intrauterine) for HMB DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two reviewers independently assessed trials for quality and extracted data .

Main results: The eight included trials randomised 821 women. In comparisons of oral medication versus surgery, 58% of women randomised to medical treatment had received surgery by two years. Compared to oral medication, endometrial resection was significantly more effective in controlling bleeding (at four months: OR 10.62, 95% CI 5.30 to 21.27) and significantly less likely to cause side effects (at four months: OR 0.15, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.31) and hysterectomy resulted in significantly greater improvements in mental health (at six months p = 0.04). In comparisons of LNG-IUS versus conservative surgery or hysterectomy, at one year there was no statistically significant difference in satisfaction rates or quality of life, though adverse effects were significantly less likely with conservative surgery (OR 0.24, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.49). Two trials found conservative surgery significantly more effective than LNG-IUS in controlling bleeding at one year (OR 3.99, 95% CI 1.53 to 10.38). Two other small trials with longer follow-up found no difference or favoured LNG-IUS - however in both these studies the data were skewed and fewer than two thirds of participants were analysed. Hysterectomy stopped all bleeding but caused serious complications for some women.

Authors' conclusions: Surgery, especially hysterectomy, reduces menstrual bleeding at one year more than medical treatments but LNG-IUS appears equally effective in improving quality of life. The evidence for longer term comparisons is weak and inconsistent. Oral medication suits a minority of women long term.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antifibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Endometrium / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy
  • Intrauterine Devices, Medicated
  • Menorrhagia / surgery
  • Menorrhagia / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Antifibrinolytic Agents
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal