Resources

Q

What are uterine fibroids and what problems do they cause?

A

Uterine Fibroids

A fibroid is a benign tumor that forms from a single smooth muscle cell that has lost its normal growth control. Fibroids are extremely common and may be found in 20 to 40% of women 35 years of age or older. Fibroids increase in size and frequency with age, but they tend to regress following menopause. Fibroids range in size from very tiny to the size of a cantaloupe or larger. Fibroids can be located in various parts of the uterus, causing different symptoms. Many fibroids do not cause symptoms and no treatment is necessary. However, these non-cancerous growths can cause excessive uterine bleeding, pelvic pain/pressure, urinary problems, backaches, bloating, and cramping.

Q

What is uterine artery embolization (also referred to as uterine fibroid embolization)?

A

Uterine artery embolization is an established, safe and effective treatment for uterine hemorrhage that accompanies a number of conditions like post-partum bleeding, tumors, arterio-venous malformations, and pre-operatively for decreasing blood loss during surgery. Large groups of patients in France and at UCLA in California have undergone uterine artery embolization for treatment of symptomatic uterine fibroids. The results are extremely encouraging. Uterine artery embolization is a non-surgical procedure for the treatment of symptomatic uterine fibroids. It is a minimally invasive procedure preformed under local anesthesia and sedation. The sedative effects of the medications will make you drowsy. The purpose of uterine artery embolization is to block the blood supply that feeds uterine fibroids, thus starving it of its nutrients. Blocking the blood supply or “embolization” of the uterine artery results in shrinkage of the fibroid growths. During uterine artery embolization, a small catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in your groin and threaded into the arteries to your uterus. Tiny particles pass through the catheter and wedge in the small vessels, blocking the blood flow to the fibroid. In the majority of patients, the fibroid will shrink substantially, resulting in alleviation of symptoms. Fibroid embolization usually requires a hospital stay of one night.

Q

How are uterine fibroids diagnosed?

A

Fibroids are usually diagnosed during a pelvic exam. Your doctor will conduct a pelvic exam to feel if your uterus is enlarged. An ultrasound or MRI most often confirms the presence of fibroids. Appropriate treatment depends on the size and location of the fibroids, as well as the severity of symptoms.

Q

What options are available to women with symptomatic uterine fibroids?

A
  • Hormonal therapy- shrinks fibroids by inducing chemical menopause
  • Hysterectomy- surgical removal of the uterus
  • Fibroid embolization- minimally invasive procedure with short recovery period and almost immediate improvement
  • Myomectomy- surgical removal of the only the fibroid
Q

How successful is the procedure?

A

Studies show that 78 to 94% of women who have the procedure experience significant or total relief of symptoms. The procedure has worked even when multiple fibroids are involved. No recurrences have occurred in women who have been followed for up to six years.

Q

Why should I choose uterine artery embolization over another treatment option?

A
  1. Non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure
  2. Shorter recovery time, hospital stay – 24 hours
  3. Preservation of an organ
  4. No risks associated with general anesthesia
  5. Symptomatic improvement within days to few weeks
Q

What should I expect after the procedure?

A

We recommend that you limit your activity the first 24 hours after returning home. You may make trips to the bathroom and kitchen, but many trips up or down the stairs should be avoided. The following day, you may gradually increase your activity, but you should avoid exercise and heavy lifting greater than 10 lbs. for 1 week. Normal activity is permitted starting 2 days after the procedure. Recovery time varies greatly among the women we have treated. Your activity will be limited by your individual symptoms (i.e. pelvic pain, nausea). We will provide you with medication to make you more comfortable during these times. Some women may develop a low-grade fever. This is related to the destruction of the fibroid and not infection. You will be given anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce inflammation. In addition, your activity may be limited by the medication you will be taking to alleviate these symptoms. Most often, symptoms peak 1-3 days after the procedure and resolve by day 5-6. Most women have been able to return to work within 1 week of the procedure.

Q

Does my insurance provider cover this procedure?

A

A number of insurance companies are paying for fibroid embolization procedures. For more information about this procedure or if you have insurance questions, please contact us at (513) 527-9999.