Why do niches develop in Caesarean uterine scars? Hypotheses on the aetiology of niche development

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Caesarean section (CS) results in the occurrence of the phenomenon ‘niche’. A ‘niche’ describes the presence of a hypoechoic area within the myometrium of the lower uterine segment, reflecting a discontinuation of the myometrium at the site of a previous CS. Using gel or saline instillation sonohysterography, a niche is identified in the scar in more than half of the women who had had a CS, most with the uterus closed in one single layer, without closure of the peritoneum. An incompletely healed scar is a long-term complication of the CS and is associated with more gynaecological symptoms than is commonly acknowledged. Approximately 30% of women with a niche report spotting at 6–12 months after their CS. Other reported symptoms in women with a niche are dysmenorrhoea, chronic pelvic pain and dyspareunia. Given the association between a niche and gynaecological symptoms, obstetric complications and potentially with subfertility, it is important to elucidate the aetiology of niche development after CS in order to develop preventive strategies. Based on current published data and our observations during sonographic, hysteroscopic and laparoscopic evaluations of niches we postulate some hypotheses on niche development. Possible factors that could play a role in niche development include a very low incision through cervical tissue, inadequate suturing technique during closure of the uterine scar, surgical interventions that increase adhesion formation or patient-related factors that impair wound healing or increase inflammation or adhesion formation.

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