Why Your Endometriosis Treatment Plan Should be Multidisciplinary
Endometriosis (endo) is a chronic and progressive disorder characterized by the growth of endometriosis tissue outside the uterus. This disorder often affects various organs in the body and results in pain and other issues. In addition to the intense physical and often debilitating symptoms of the disease, it can also take a toll on mental and spiritual health. Therefore, a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to endometriosis pain, surgery, and disease management leads to the best outcomes for patients. Keep reading to learn how.
What is Endometriosis?
Pronounced (en-doe-me-tree-O-sis), endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disorder in which a type of tissue that is similar to the endometrial tissue that normally grows inside the uterus, grows outside this organ. Sometimes, the endometriosis tissue appears on the outer side of the uterus. These lesions can also grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder wall, and on the outside of other organs within the pelvic cavity and other regions of the body.
Endometriosis is often a very painful and debilitating disease. During menstruation, these endometriosis growths shed blood into the body which is not able to be released. This causes an increase in pressure throughout the pelvic and sometimes abdominal region. Endo often involves other organs such as the bowels, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, and cervix. In rare cases, it may affect other organs, such as the bladder, lungs, diaphragm, or kidneys. If you would like to learn more information about endometriosis, read our article, “Endometriosis 101: Covering the Basics”.
What is a Multidisciplinary Team Approach in Medicine?
Multidisciplinary care is when multiple members of the healthcare team come together to collaborate to provide optimal care for a patient. When it comes to endometriosis treatment, it’s important to involve various disciplines across the healthcare spectrum to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients.
Benefits of a Multidisciplinary Treatment (MDT) Team for Endometriosis
Draw in endo experts across different care areas to enhance the patient’s prospects and outcomes. Physicians benefit from this approach as they are able to provide a better framework for decision-making on a collaborative level and implementation. These aspects are particularly important when dealing with complex endometriosis cases. When several endo experts work together in unison, the benefits include cross-discipline learning, research, and review.
There is a type of disease, called deep infiltrating endometriosis (DIE). Alarmingly, about 20 percent of endo patients have this type. With DIE, the lesions can penetrate 5 mm deep into the organs affected by the disorder. A multidisciplinary treatment plan is the best approach for better outcomes and improved quality of life for the patient. The resection of DIE lesions requires a surgeon with expertise in endometriosis and a multidisciplinary approach coordinated by the endo specialist.
In fact, in 2019, the Society for Women’s Health Research assembled a team of clinicians, researchers, and patients to deliberate on the barriers in the commonly accepted forms of endometriosis treatment and management. The team underscored the importance of comprehensive and interdisciplinary approaches to disease and pain management for proper treatment and diagnosis.
Who comprises an Endometriosis Multidisciplinary Team?
The following are some of the endometriosis experts that come together and help treat patients holistically:
Endometriosis Surgeon (Gynecologist):
If you have endometriosis, a regular obstetrics-gynecological surgeon is not going to suffice. It’s important to have an endometriosis specialist, who is an OB surgeon with experience in the treatment of this pelvic disease. An endometriosis laparoscopy is often needed to diagnose and treat the disease. It’s important to choose a surgeon familiar with endo to ensure all lesions are removed. Learn more about endometriosis specialists and how to find a vetted physician in our article here.
Colorectal Surgeon (Bowel Surgeon):
If the endometriosis affects the bowel, surgical excision may be necessary to remove the lesions. Surgical treatment, such as full-thickness disc excision or a bowel resection should only be performed by an experienced colorectal surgeon. This physician will participate in the care from the diagnostic workup to surgical treatment and follow-up care.
Urologist (Genitourinary Tract Doctor):
A urologist treats disorders of the urethra, kidneys, urinary bladder, and adrenal glands. Having an experienced urologist as part of your multidisciplinary team can help aid in the treatment of ureter and bladder lesions as well as minimize kidney or bladder complications.
Radiologist Experienced in Endometriosis:
Endometriosis may have several presentations, which can make diagnostic testing challenging. Because endometriosis lesions can present in other areas of the body away from the reproductive organs, it’s important that the radiologist on your team is familiar with the pelvic nerve anatomy and how to detect signs of neural endometriosis.
Physical Therapist/Pelvic Floor Therapist:
Physical therapy can be very important in the treatment of endometriosis. While some patients may require physical therapy to help them adapt to pain and stay mobile, others may need highly specific pelvic floor therapy. A pelvic floor physical therapist can work with the patient to help reduce adhesions and scar tissue which can limit pelvic floor extensibility. These exercises are important to help reduce pain sometimes associated with intercourse or the insertion of a tampon.
Pain Management Doctor:
Endometriosis pain is often the primary complaint and most debilitating symptom of this disease. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the pain associated with endo to become so intense that a person is no longer able to function in daily life. For this reason, a pain management doctor should be a part of the team to improve functioning and overall quality of life.
Anxiety and depression are two of the biggest mental health disorders that often accompany endometriosis. Furthermore, the pain and sometimes infertility that come with this disorder can further aggravate these negative emotions. Therefore, a holistic MDT for endometriosis will include a psychiatrist or psychologist, possibly one who specializes in pain management.
Nutrition plays a key role in the processes and regulation of your digestive and immune systems. A proper endometriosis diet can help to reduce the chronic inflammation that keeps the endometriosis lesions growing and spreading. A nutritionist with experience in treating endo patients is key for successful outcomes.
There are different stages and types of endometriosis. Endometriosis with architectural atypia is one type that may be a precursor of ovarian cancer. Therefore, it’s important that a pathologist carefully examines the lesions to discover if they could be indicative of endometriosis-associated ovarian cancer.
Building Your Multidisciplinary Team for Endometriosis
Who’s got your back? If you have or suspect you might have endometriosis, this is a very important question to ask yourself. iCareBetter is a digital platform that connects endo patients to vetted endometriosis experts across a variety of disciplines. If you have endo, we want to hear from you. Do you already have an MDT for endo? If so, who are the members of your personal team?