Treatment of Uterine Fibroids with Uterine Fibroid Embolization–Eliminating Pain, Abnormal Bleeding, and Other Symptoms

Arlene Mavko

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Uterine Fibroids Illustration
Uterine Fibroids Illustration

Uterine fibroids, growths of tissue in the muscle cells of the uterus, are noncancerous and very rarely develop into cancer. While this is the good news about uterine fibroids, the bad news is that they are prone to a multitude of uncomfortable symptoms: pelvic pressure, chronic or acute pelvic pain, leg or back pain, abnormal menstrual bleeding, spotting or bleeding between periods, frequent urination, difficulty emptying the bladder, constipation, enlarged abdomen, pain during intercourse, and infertility or miscarriages.

Many women will have uterine fibroids during their lifetime, with most fibroids occurring before age 50. Many of these women do not know they have this condition because the fibroids present no problems due to their small size or quantity and/or their location within the uterus. In these cases, the women may become aware of the existence of the fibroids after pelvic examination by their physician.

For those women who do have symptoms, the effects may be severe enough to warrant further analysis. Prior to any treatment plan, the presence of uterine fibroids is confirmed by a diagnostic tool such as MRI, CT, or abdominal ultrasound. MRI is becoming the preferred imaging modality because it produces precise anatomical definition of the uterus and uterine arteries, thus enabling physicians to select the best treatment option for the patient. MRI is the standard for interventional radiologists because of its excellent contrast resolution, wide field of view, and multi-dimensional capability.

When medications are not effective or appropriate to relieve symptoms, physicians may turn to surgery or minimally invasive options. Traditional surgery may take the form of a hysterectomy or myomectomy, both of which are invasive and have longer recovery times and more postprocedural complications than minimally invasive options.

  • Hysterectomy is a major surgical procedure that removes the uterus, thus permanently eliminating all uterine fibroids. However, hysterectomy also ends the ability of the woman to have children.
  • Myomectomy retains the uterus but removes uterine fibroids from the walls of the uterus. Where there are many fibroids, myomectomy may not be a viable option, and recurrence of uterine fibroids is possible after this procedure.

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization, is a minimally invasive approach that is surprisingly unfamiliar to many women. In fact, only about 44% of women with uterine fibroids have heard about UFE, a procedure that treats all existing uterine fibroids. During this procedure, tiny FDA-approved particles are released through a catheter into the uterine arteries, cutting off blood supply to the fibroids, shrinking them, and providing significant or total relief from their painful symptoms.

UFE is performed at SIR-Florida by leading interventional radiologist, Dr. Gerald E. Grubbs, while the patient is administered conscious sedation by board-certified anesthesiologists. The procedure is minimally invasive, results in less pain, and has shorter recovery times than hysterectomy or myomectomy. It is important for women to fully evaluate and discuss treatment options for uterine fibroids with their physician.

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