Treating Your Painful Fibroids Can Change Your Life
Uterine fibroids are the most common benign tumors within the female reproductive system. While the majority of uterine fibroids are diagnosed and treated in women between the ages of 35-54, fibroids can occur in younger or older women.
Fibroids are often discovered when a woman has a routine pelvic exam and are frequently treated with a hysterectomy.
More than 600,000 women undergo hysterectomies in the United States each year, but some doctors believe that many women do not require this drastic operation. In fact, according to medical studies, 75% of hysterectomies are done for fibroids, and many of those patients may be successfully and less invasively treated with Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends UFE as a first-line of treatment for fibroids. UFE is a safe, effective, and proven treatment for symptomatic fibroids as documented in several large clinical studies, and for many women is an excellent alternative to a much more invasive hysterectomy.
A hysterectomy usually requires a 4-6 week recovery period, while UFE requires about one week recovery. According to an article published in the March 2013 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, hysterectomy has an overall complication rate of 5-10% and a major complication rate of 2-3%.
Complications may include infection, significant bleeding during surgery, scar formation in the abdomen that can cause a bowel obstruction later, bladder incontinence, injury to other structures in the abdomen and pelvis, and loss of sexual sensation. UFE, on the other hand, has an overall complication rate of 3-5% and a major complication rate of less than 1%, with none of the possible surgical complications.
Additionally, unlike myomectomy during which larger fibroids are cut out but new fibroids can still appear, UFE is a permanent solution that prevents new fibroids from developing.
During a UFE procedure, the physician injects tiny particles into the blood vessels supplying the fibroids in order to block blood supply to the fibroids and cause the fibroids to shrink. The procedure takes about an hour and does not require general anesthesia.
For most women, it is a welcome alternative to a hysterectomy or myomectomy. Results of a five-year study reveal that an estimated 90% of women experienced long-term relief after UFE.
Additionally, because UFE maintains the uterus, there is still a possibility of pregnancy with successful term deliveries. If a woman is interested in the UFE procedure, she should discuss this option with a board certified interventional radiologist physician.