Pathology and Pathogenesis of Adenomyosis

Semin Reprod Med. 2020 May;38(2-03):108-118. doi: 10.1055/s-0040-1718922. Epub 2020 Oct 20.


Adenomyosis represents a unique pathophysiological condition in which normal-appearing endometrial mucosa resides within myometrium and is thus protected from menstrual shedding. The resulting ectopic presence of endometrial tissue composed of glands and stroma is thought to affect normal contractile function and peristalsis of uterine smooth muscle, causing menometrorrhagia, infertility, and adverse obstetric outcomes. Since the first description of adenomyosis more than 150 years ago, pathologists have studied this lesion by examining tissue specimens, and have proposed multiple explanations to account for its pathogenesis. However, as compared with endometriosis, progress of adenomyosis research has been, at best, incremental mainly due to the lack of standardized protocols in sampling tissue and a lack of consensus diagnostic criteria in pathology practice. Despite these limitations, recent advances in revealing the detailed anatomy and biology of eutopic endometrium offer an unprecedented opportunity to study this common but relatively understudied disorder. Here, we briefly summarize the pathological aspects of adenomyosis from an historical background, and discuss conventional morphology and recent tissue-based molecular studies with a special emphasis on elucidating its tissue of origin from a pathologist's perspective. We also discuss unmet needs in pathology studies that would be important for advancing adenomyosis research.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenomyosis / complications
  • Adenomyosis / diagnosis
  • Adenomyosis / history
  • Adenomyosis / pathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Endometriosis / complications
  • Endometrium / pathology*
  • Female
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Myometrium / pathology*