A Nonsurgical Treatment Option for Managing Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are very common, noncancerous growths that develop in
the muscular wall of the uterus. While fibroids do not always cause
symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women,
including pelvic pain, heavy bleeding and, in some cases, infertility.
The cause of fibroids is unknown, but research suggests that some women
may have a genetic predisposition to fibroid development and that
estrogen plays an important role in the formation of fibroids.
Typically, fibroids worsen as a woman enters her 30s and 40s, and then
the fibroids shrink when estrogen levels drop at menopause.
The traditional treatments for fibroids have largely been major
abdominal surgeries, such as hysterectomy or myomectomy, requiring long
and uncomfortable recovery times. Now, a new interventional radiology
procedure called uterine fibroid embolization gives women a safe
alternative to hysterectomy.
Typically, fibroids are first diagnosed during a gynecologic internal
examination. Your doctor will conduct a pelvic exam to feel if your
uterus is enlarged. The presence of fibroids is most often confirmed by
an abdominal ultrasound. Fibroids also can be confirmed using magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) imaging.
How the Procedure Works
Uterine fibroid embolization blocks the arteries that supply blood to
the fibroids, causing them to shrink. It is a minimally invasive,
nonsurgical procedure, which means it requires only a tiny nick in
the skin and is performed while the patient is conscious but
sedated (drowsy and feeling no pain).
Uterine fibroid embolization is performed by an interventional
radiologist, a physician who is specially trained to perform this
and other minimally invasive procedures.
The interventional radiologist makes a small nick (less than one-quarter
of an inch) in the skin of the groin and inserts a tiny tube into
the femoral artery. The catheter is guided through the artery to the
uterus using advanced 3-D X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy). Tiny plastic
particles the size of grains of sand are injected into the artery that
is supplying blood to the fibroid tumor. This cuts off the blood flow
and causes the tumor(s) to shrink. The artery puncture where the
catheter was inserted is cleaned and covered with a bandage.
Fibroid embolization usually requires a hospital stay of one night.
Medications that control swelling typically are prescribed following the
procedure to treat cramping and discomfort. Many women resume light
activities in a few days and the majority of women are able to return to
normal activities within 7 to 10 days.
On average, 90 percent of women who have the procedure experience
significant or total relief of heavy bleeding. The procedure is about 85
percent effective in treating the pain caused by fibroids. Recurrence of
treated fibroids is very rare.
Menstruation and Fertility
This procedure does not stop normal menstruation in most women. It does
stop the abnormal bleeding caused by the fibroids. While this procedure
does not result in infertility, we do not recommend this
procedure for women desiring future pregnancy. After having this
procedure, you should continue to use your usual method of
Side Effects and Complications
You should talk to your doctor about possible risks of any procedure you
All devices, equipment and medications used for fibroid embolization are
approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Most insurance companies pay for fibroid embolization. You will want to
talk with your interventional radiologist about this before your
For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Bryn Mawr
Hospital interventional radiologist, call 1-866-CALL-MLH.
Bryn Mawr Hospital
New Appointments 1.866.CALL.MLH or 484.580.1000
Bryn Mawr Hospital
130 South Bryn Mawr Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.