Medically Reviewed by Mary Beth Lewis, MD
Most radiologists spend their days like electronic Sherlock Holmes, searching X-Rays, CT Scans, PET scans and more to find the source of a patient’s problem.
An ‘interventional’ radiologist takes a more active role in treating patients.
“One intervention that increases treatment options for women with fibroids is the safe and highly effective nonsurgical Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), also known as Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE),” says McLeod Interventional Radiologist Mary Beth Lewis, MD. “This procedure has been used for decades to stop heavy bleeding in pelvic trauma and childbirth or with malignant GYN tumors. Its use in treating fibroids began in the mid-1990s.”
Fibroids are growths in, on or outside the uterus. The good news is that these are almost always noncancerous. But they can cause pain, bleeding, a bloated feeling, and sometimes, problems with incontinence. Up to 40% of women aged 35 and older will experience fibroids. Yet, only about 20% of women with fibroids will experience troublesome symptoms.
Traditional treatments remove fibroids surgically by taking out the uterus (hysterectomy) or removing the fibroids, while leaving the uterus intact (myomectomy).
PARTICLES THE SIZE OF SAND
In UFE, the patient is sedated, while the interventional radiologist watches a live scan of the women on a monitor as she places a small catheter in the artery at the groin and guides this specially-shaped catheter into the uterine arteries. The arteries are embolized (shut down) with small particles (smaller than a grain of sand).
The procedure takes about an hour and has a low risk of complications. Over time, fibroids will shrink, but patients usually experience a rapid improvement in the pelvic pain, heaving bleeding and urinary frequency.
The feeling of puffiness is relieved, and pain from the fibroids exerting pressure against pelvic organs is eased. Nine of out 10 women treated with UFE report significant improvement or resolution of heavy bleeding and their “bulky” feeling. Most patients can resume normal activities in a few days.
The most likely candidates for the UFE treatment are women past their fertility or premenopausal women who wish to avoid a hysterectomy.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
If you have symptoms that might be fibroids, see your Gynecologist. They will determine the diagnosis and discuss the options for our treatment, which might start with medication.
Here is a checklist to help you prepare for a visit with the Gynecologist about your pelvic health issue.
Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, Society of Interventional Radiology, American Association of Family Physicians, Society of Interventional Radiology, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists