Endometriosis: the role of neuroangiogenesis

Annu Rev Physiol. 2011;73:163-82. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-012110-142158.


Endometriosis is a common cause of pelvic pain and infertility, affecting ∼10% of reproductive-age women. Annual costs for medical and surgical care in the United States exceed $20 billion. The disorder is characterized by implants of endometrial tissue outside the uterine cavity. Endometriotic lesions induce a state of chronic peritoneal inflammation, accompanied by elevated prostaglandin, cytokine, and growth factor concentrations. The current therapy is surgical ablation of ectopic implants and hormones that block the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, but these approaches are expensive, carry perioperative risks, or have unpleasant side effects of hypoestrogenism. Recent evidence indicates that ectopic endometriotic implants recruit their own unique neural and vascular supplies through neuroangiogenesis. It is believed that these nascent nerve fibers in endometriosis implants influence dorsal root neurons within the central nervous system, increasing pain perception in patients. We consider the mechanisms and therapeutic implications of neuroangiogenesis in these lesions and propose potential treatments for the control or elimination of endometriosis-associated pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endometriosis / physiopathology*
  • Endometriosis / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstruation Disturbances / physiopathology*
  • Mice
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / physiopathology*
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Pelvic Pain / physiopathology