What is placenta percreta

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The definition of this medical term is, the abnormal adherence of part or all of the placenta to the uterine wall. Finding information about this condition is difficult due to the rarity and remarkable differences of the cases.

Placenta percreta is often associated with 'placenta previa', a much more common condition in which the placenta grows on the bottom of the uterus, preventing natural childbirth. Often, the placenta will actually move farther up the uterine wall as the pregnancy develops to allow for vaginal birth but as worse case scenario, the mother will undergo the popular 'cesarean section' with little or no additional complications.

Unlike placenta previa, placenta percreta will most certainly result in an emergency hysterectomy, either in partial or full, to stench the bleeding that occurs when the placenta is torn away from the uterine wall.

You may think that this condition is easily identified with a regular ultrasound, however that is not the case and it is one of the reasons that this more serious condition is often misdiagnosed as the simpler, placenta previa. It is very difficult to determine whether the placenta is abnormally attached to the uterine wall or just sitting in the wrong position.

To complicate matters further, the placenta is a living organ that will continue to nourish the developing fetus whether it remains within the uterus or not. In very rare situations, the placenta will actually grow through the uterine wall, invading the mother's body and offer the potential risk of damaging other nearby organs such as, the kidneys, liver and bladder. If a doctor has little or no reason to believe that the condition is not placenta previa, the potential risk for further damage is substantial.

I have come to understand this condition by personal experience and though I don't claim to understand it in its entirety, I certainly understand more then the information one may find on their own.

I was misdiagnosed with the common 'placenta previa' only to later find out that I suffered 'placenta percreta', resulting in not only a hysterectomy and early menopause at the age of twenty-five but severe multi-organ damage.

Unfortunately, the damage was not identified immediately and I suffered months of pain that not even the strongest of narcotics could aid. I endured a great many tests and procedures before the extent of the damage was finally discovered during the implant of a prosthetic ureter. My urologist had found large pieces of left over placenta casually moving about my body and though he removed several of the larger pieces he could do little for the copious amounts that were left behind.

When the placenta had exited my uterus it had narrowly missed my right kidney and instead attacked the left one at full force. My kidney was severely damaged as was my left ureter and bladder before finally ceasing its attack when it embedded itself into my cervix. I endured a lengthy blood transfusion that replaced my full body, blood volume three and a half times, saving my life.

It is terribly unfortunate that little information is available regarding this subject. If we understood it better, perhaps we could find a way to prevent it or at least give it less opportunity to result in such grave endings.

submitted by Shawna Bowman