Have you been diagnosed with uterine fibroids? Don’t worry. They are extremely common and treatable.
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that develop within the muscular wall of the uterus. Twenty to 40 percent of women over the age of 35 have uterine fibroids and over 50 percent of African American women have them.
Uterine fibroids are the most frequent indication for hysterectomy in pre-menopausal women. Of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed annually within the United States, one third are due to symptomatic fibroids. Now there is a proven, non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy for the treatment of symptomatic uterine fibroids, called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).
Uterine fibroids are categorized by their location within the muscular wall of the uterus.
Intramural fibroids are the most common type of uterine fibroids. They develop within the muscular wall of the uterus and tend to grow inward. Intramural fibroids cause enlargement of the uterus and can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, generalized pelvic pressure, increased waist size, and a frequency in urination and/or constipation.
Subserosal fibroids develop under the outside lining of the uterus. They typically don’t cause changes of menstrual flow; however they may cause symptoms of pelvic or back pain, pressure, and/or bloating.
Subserosal fibroids can have a stalk or stem. These are called pedunculated subserosal fibroids.
Submucosal fibroids develop under the uterine cavity lining. Although they are the least common type, they cause the greatest symptoms. Even small submucosal fibroids can cause heavy menstrual bleeding with clots and gushing as well as prolonged cycles.
Most fibroids don’t cause symptoms. Only 10 to 20 percent of women with fibroids have symptoms that require treatment. Symptoms may include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding that tends to be prolonged
- Intermittent, unusual monthly bleeding
- Anemia (low blood count)
- Pelvic pain and pressure
- Painful menstrual cramping
- Frequency in urination secondary to bladder pressure
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Increase in waist size
- UFE is effective on most sizes and types of fibroids.
- Eighty-five to ninety percent of women have significant relief of their symptoms.
- Recurrence of treated fibroids is rare.
- Approximately 14,000 UFE procedures are performed annually in the U.S.
- Embolization of the uterine arteries has been performed by interventional radiologists for over 20 years. It was, and still is, used to treat life-threatening bleeding after childbirth.
- The embolic particles are FDA approved and have been in use in people for over 20 years.
- UFE is covered by most major insurance companies.
- It is an organ sparing procedure.
- UFE preserves fertility with numerous reports of successful pregnancy after UFE.
Non-surgical Uterine Fibroid Embolization
A Major Advance in Women’s Health
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization, is performed by an interventional radiologist, a physician who is trained to perform this and other types of embolization and minimally invasive procedures. It is performed while the patient is conscious, but sedated and feeling no pain. It does not require general anesthesia.
The interventional radiologist makes a tiny nick in the skin in the groin and inserts a catheter into the femoral artery. Using real-time imaging, the physician guides the catheter through the artery and then releases tiny particles, the size of grains of sand, into the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroid tumor. This blocks the blood flow to the fibroid tumor and causes it to shrink and die.Download UFE Fact Sheet
UFE is a very safe method and, like other minimally invasive procedures, has significant advantages over conventional open surgery. However, as with any medical procedure, there are some associated risks.
A small number of patients have experienced infection, which usually can be controlled by antibiotics. There also is a less than one percent chance of injury to the uterus, potentially leading to a hysterectomy. These complication rates are lower than those of hysterectomy and myomectomy.
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