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Meghal R. Antani, MD
Uterine Fibroid Embolization For Treatment Of Fibroids
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Uterine Fibroid Embolization For Treatment Of Fibroids

Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of theuterus(womb). Another medical term for fibroids is “leiomyoma” or just “myoma”. Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous). Fibroids can grow as a single tumor, or there can be many of them in the uterus. They can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit. In unusual cases they can become very large.

About 20-80% of women develop fibroids by the time they reach age 50. Fibroids are most common in women in their 40s and early 50s. Not all women with fibroids have symptoms. Women who do have symptoms often find fibroids hard to live with. Some have pain and heavy menstrual bleeding. Fibroids also can put pressure on the bladder, causing frequent urination, or the rectum, causing rectal pressure. Should the fibroids get very large, they can cause the abdomen (stomach area) to enlarge, making a woman look pregnant.

There are factors that can increase a woman's risk of developing fibroids.

  • Age.Fibroids become more common as women age, especially during the 30s and 40s through menopause. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink.

  • Family history.Having a family member with fibroids increases your risk. If a woman's mother had fibroids, her risk of having them is about three times higher than average.

  • Ethnic origin.African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women.

  • Obesity.Women who are overweight are at higher risk for fibroids. For very heavy women, the risk is two to three times greater than average.

  • Eating habits.Eating a lot of red meat (e.g., beef) and ham is linked with a higher risk of fibroids. Eating plenty of green vegetables seems to protect women from developing fibroids.

Although many uterine fibroids do not cause harmful symptoms and do not require treatment, in some cases, uterine fibroids cause symptoms within a woman that cause discomfort and disruption of everyday life.

In these cases, treatment is needed to alleviate these symptoms, and uterine fibroid embolization is one of several treatment options available for uterine fibroids.

Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that significantly reduces symptoms caused by uterine fibroids and serves as an effective option for those who do not want to undergo surgery.

During the procedure, an interventional radiologist makes a small incision in the groin and inserts a catheter into an artery. The catheter is guided through the artery to the uterus while the physician watches the progress of the procedure using a moving x-ray.

Tiny plastic particles, the size of grains of sand, are injected into the artery that is supplying blood to the fibroid tumor. This process cuts off the blood flow to the tumor(s), thus causing it to shrink.

Uterine fibroid embolization treats all tumors simultaneously, can be done as an outpatient, carries low patient risk, and involves a quick recovery period most patients are able to return to work within a week.

In most cases, patients' symptoms begin to subside within 2-3 months, especially those who suffered from heavy menstrual cycles. Within 6-12 months, symptoms caused by an enlarged uterus will also be significantly alleviated.

For those who have been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, it is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor.

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