A new sterilization procedure for women that does not require an incision or general anesthesia now is available at UAB Hospital.

Essure hysteroscopic sterilization uses a telescope-like instrument with a video camera to visually inspect the lining of the uterus and place small, permanent inserts into the fallopian tubes from inside the uterus, ensuring that a woman will not become pregnant.

“The insert is very similar to a cardiac stent,” says Todd Jenkins, M.D., director of the Division of Women’s Reproductive Health. “You put a stent in the fallopian tube and over a three-month period it scars the fallopian tube closed.”

This procedure enables sterilization to be performed without an incision on the abdomen and without patients having to go to sleep, and it is as effective as other methods of female sterilization.

“There are many ladies who have been told they can’t have permanent sterilization because they’re not a good surgical candidate,” Jenkins says. “Hysteroscopic sterilization opens up a whole new avenue for women if this is something they desire.”

The Federal Drug Administration approved the procedure in 2002, and UAB made the service available two months ago. The procedure is covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield and recently was added to VIVA coverage, Jenkins says. It is covered for Medicaid patients if they have a contraindication to laparoscopy or anesthesia.

Until recently, women who desired a permanent form of sterilization were limited to tubal ligation or hysterectomy. Hysteroscopy offers a better option, Jenkins says. The procedure has no effect on women’s hormones, and it should not affect the menstrual cycle. And, while women who have had the procedure have reported a little more discomfort with their menstrual periods, it usually resolves after several cycles, Jenkins says.

As for pain immediately following the actual procedure, “More than 95 percent of patients are comfortable with ibuprofen post-operatively,” Jenkins says.

Jenkins says their group often encourages women to ask their husbands and partners to undergo a vasectomy before the women agree to tubal sterilization. “A vasectomy is cheaper, more effective and has less risk than tubal sterilization. However, hysteroscopic sterilization actually is bridging that gap,” Jenkins says.

The physician says that 50,000 women worldwide have taken advantage of the new sterilization procedure.

The Division of Women’s Reproductive Health is housed in the Kirklin Clinic and is designed to provide obstetric and gynecological care to the UAB community. The division has six members, plus a certified registered nurse practitioner. Jenkins, Kim Hoover, M.D., and Laura Lee Joiner, M.D., are offering the Essure hysteroscopic sterilization procedure.

For more information, call 326-9423 or visit www.essure.com . To make an appointment, call 801-7802.