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Meghal R. Antani, MD
Uterine Fibroid Embolization: Non-Surgical Treatment For Uterine Fibroids
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Uterine Fibroid Embolization: Non-Surgical Treatment For Uterine Fibroids

Many women who have uterine fibroids go through their days with no noticeable symptoms. They may even be unaware they have fibroids at all. However, for a small percentage, daily life can be significantly impacted by symptoms.

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that occur in the wall of the uterus. They may be as small as a pea or as large as a cantaloupe. They can cause a host of disruptive symptoms: unusually heavy or long menstrual periods, pressure on the bladder leading to frequent trips to the bathroom, bloating, and pain in the pelvis, legs, or lower back. Uterine fibroids affect 20-40% of women 20 years or older. They also occur in half of African American women.

Traditionally, treatment for women with problematic uterine fibroids has been surgical –  hysterectomy or myomectomy (surgical removal of the fibroids after a uterine evaluation from a gynecologist). In fact, unwanted fibroid symptoms trigger approximately 200,000 hysterectomies each year. For close to 20 years, interventional radiologists have used a non-surgical alternative to treat women who suffer with uterine fibroids. This minimally invasive procedure is called uterine fibroid embolization.

Compared to the surgical options, embolization results in fewer complications, a shorter hospital stay and a far quicker recovery time. It has an 85-92% success rate compared with myomectomy – 10-30% of myomectomy patients develop fibroids again. Long-term data now shows that about 90% of women who have uterine fibroid embolization report ongoing satisfaction and continuous symptomatic relief for years following the procedure.

 An embolization is performed through a small puncture in a groin artery. Dye is injected into the artery to identify which blood vessels supply the uterus and fibroids. The interventional radiologist then guides a wire and catheter into the identified vessels and injects small particles that block the blood supply to the fibroids. Heavy periods usually take a few cycles to lessen. The procedure takes approximately an hour and can be done as an outpatient. Patients can usually resume normal activity after a week.

For further information, speak with an interventional radiologist who is experienced in this procedure.

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