If you're a woman in your 30s or 40s experiencing pelvic pain, heavy
bleeding and frequent urination, you may be suffering from a common
condition known as uterine fibroids.
These noncancerous growths develop in the wall of the uterus in 20 to 40
percent of women age 35 and older. They vary greatly from tiny nodules
to tumors as large as a cantaloupe.
For most women, fibroids either do not cause symptoms or cause only
minor symptoms. But when their size and location lead to problems,
interventional radiology offers a nonsurgical treatment that is sparing
women major surgery.
Until recently, treatment options for uterine fibroids have involved
either hormonal medications, hysterectomy-which is removal of the entire
uterus or myomectomy taking out the largest fibroid or collection of
fibroids. In fact, uterine fibroids are the most common cause of
hysterectomy in pre-menopausal women.
With one third of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed annually in the
United States due to fibroids, the minimally invasive treatment is a
safe solution for a significant public health problem.
Called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), the procedure blocks the
arteries that supply blood to the fibroids, causing them to shrink.
On average, 90 percent of women experience significant or total
relief of heavy bleeding.
The treatment is about 85 percent effective in relieving pain
associated with fibroids.
Recurrence of treated fibroids is very rare.
For the patient, uterine fibroid embolization is a simple procedure that
takes from one to two hours and is performed under local anesthesia with
a light sedation. The process involves the following steps:
The interventional radiologist makes a small nick in the skin in
the groin and inserts a tiny catheter tube into the femoral
Using advanced three-dimensional X-ray, the physician guides the
catheter through the artery to the uterus.
Tiny plastic particles the size of grains of sand are then
injected into the artery supplying blood to the fibroids.
When the procedure is done, all the patient has is a little bandage on
the skin where the interventional radiologist accessed the artery.
Usually, patients stay in the hospital overnight. After discharge, many
women resume light activities in a few days, and the majority return to
normal activities within seven to 10 days.
Uterine fibroid embolization is becoming the preferred treatments for
fibroids. There is less pain, it is easily tolerated, and recovery time
is faster. Many physicians see UFE as a first line of treatment today,
and recent trials comparing embolization to both surgical procedures
bears out the safety and effectiveness of the minimally invasive
Women experiencing fibroid symptoms should talk to their physician to
determine whether they are a candidate for uterine fibroid embolization.
An ultrasound or MRI will help the interventional radiologist determine
if the treatment option is appropriate for you.
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.