Originally Published: November 1, 2017 6:02 a.m.
A significant amount of women over the age of 35 have uterine fibroids. Fibroids are considered a public health issue and often lead to hysterectomy, which is a major surgery.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus and are very common. Often, there are no symptoms, but they can grow to be about the size of a cantaloupe. Uterine fibroids can cause symptoms such as heavy bleeding with clots or pressure-type symptoms such as pelvic pain or pain in the back and legs. Often, women will have many fibroids that cover a large area of the uterus.
Typically, hysterectomy has been recommended to completely alleviate the possibility of future uterine fibroids. With hysterectomy, the entire uterus is removed from the body. Because hysterectomy is considered a major surgery, however, there are risks associated with it. For instance, there is a higher rate of post-operative infection, a longer hospital stay and many weeks of recovery time. The cost of a surgical procedure can also be more than other types of procedures that are available.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization, which is also known as Uterine Artery Embolization, is one such procedure. UFE is a minimally-invasive procedure that interventional radiologists perform that keeps the uterus intact while also relieving present and future uterine fibroids.
During UFE, the interventional radiologist injects tiny particles into the arteries that feed the uterine fibroids. These particles restrict blood flow making it impossible for nutrients to reach the fibroid. This shrinks and destroys the fibroid.
Local Interventional Radiologist Ben Paxton, MD said, “This method of shrinking the fibroid is not a new procedure and is less invasive than surgery. This also saves the entire uterus and reduces the risks associated with a surgery.”
Interventional radiologists have been performing embolizations of the uterine arteries for decades as a way to stop excessive bleeding after childbirth. There is reduced blood loss with UFE and recurrence or re-growth of uterine fibroids is rare after UFE. Recovery time is shorter than surgery and women can resume their regular activities within seven to 10 days.
“In addition to uterine fibroid embolization being better for the patient overall than traditional hysterectomy, studies indicate that UFE can treat even early-stage, undetectable masses,” Paxton said.
Hormone therapy has also been proposed as an option to treat uterine fibroids. However, it may not be a long-term, permanent option because once the woman stops the therapy, the fibroids can resume growing.
Dr. Paxton added, “Women who have UFE experience substantial relief of heavy bleeding and pain. In some cases, there have been reports of complete resolution of bleeding and pain.”
Through imaging studies such as MRI, CT or ultrasound, an interventional radiologist can determine if you are a good candidate for UFE or not.
If you would like to know more about Uterine Fibroid Embolization, please ask your gynecologist or primary care provider or contact the interventional radiologists at Vascular and Interventional Specialists of Prescott at 928-771-8477.
Information from YRMC Health Connect.