A stepped-care approach to symptomatic endometriosis management: a participatory research initiative

Paolo Vercellini, Agnese Donati, Federica Ottolini, Annalisa Frassineti, Jessica Fiorini, Vanessa Nebuloni, Maria Pina Frattaruolo, Anna Roberto, Paola Mosconi, Edgardo Somigliana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To assess the proportion of patients with symptomatic endometriosis satisfied with their medical treatment 12 months after enrollment in a stepped-care management protocol. Design: Prospective, single-arm, self-controlled study. Setting: Academic department. Patient(s): A cohort of 157 consecutive patients referred or self-referred to our center for symptomatic endometriosis. Interventions(s): Systematic detailed information process on medical and surgical treatment followed by a shared decision to start a stepped-care protocol including three subsequent medical therapy steps (oral contraception [OC]; 2.5 mg/d norethindrone acetate [NETA]; 2 mg/d dienogest [DNG]) and a fourth surgical step. Stepping up was triggered by drug inefficacy/intolerance. Main Outcome Measure(s): Satisfaction with treatment was assessed according to a five-category scale (very satisfied, satisfied, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, dissatisfied, very dissatisfied). Variations were measured in pain symptoms with the use of a 0–10-point numeric rating scale (NRS), in quality of life with the use of the Short Form 12 questionnaire (SF-12), and in sexual functioning with the use of the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI). Result(s): At the end of the 12-month study period, 106 women were still using OC, 23 were using NETA, three were using DNG, and four had undergone surgery. Twenty-one participants (13%) dropped out from the study. In intention-to-treat analysis, excluding five drop-outs for pregnancy desire, the overall satisfaction rate with the stepped-care protocol was 62% (95/152; 95% CI 55%–70%). By 12-month follow-up, significant improvements were observed in all pain symptom scores and in SF-12 physical and mental component summary scores, whereas FSFI scores did not vary substantially. Conclusion(s): Most women with endometriosis-associated pelvic pain who chose a stepped-care approach were satisfied with OC and a low-cost progestin for the treatment of their symptoms. The need to step up to an expensive progestin or surgery was marginal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1086-1096
JournalFertility and Sterility
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Endometriosis
  • medical treatment
  • pelvic pain
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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