Minimally invasive procedure provides new childbirth hope

Beauty therapist, Jo Anastasio, who suffers from an extremely rare blood vessel abnormality, was told that she couldn’t have children and that her only option was a hysterectomy.

But thanks to an interventional radiology procedure that is proving beneficial for selected patients, Jo and her husband, Rob, celebrated the birth of their daughter, Laura, last month.

Jo is the second woman in as many months to be told motherhood was not an option only to give birth after having this procedure, called uterine embolisation, at The Alfred.

Director of Radiology, Professor Ken Thomson, said the coincidence of two pregnancies within such a short timeframe was amazing.

Professor Thomson said both women had contacted him recently to share their happy news and to thank specialists for their “special little miracles”.

He said the women suffered from a condition called Vascular Malformation (VM) which involves malformation of blood vessels. This condition may occur anywhere in the body. If left untreated, the blood vessels can rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding. When the VM involves the uterus, pregnancy or even periods may cause severe haemorrhage.

Professor Thomson said the treatment involved the insertion of a catheter to the site of the ruptured blood vessel and the injection of a substance to close the clot. Inert polyvinyl particles are used to block the abnormal blood vessels in the uterus. Other materials including metal coils or absolute alcohol are used for other VM’s.

Professor Thomson said this day-only treatment was much less costly and traumatic to the patients than major surgery, but importantly, it offered these women a chance at motherhood.

“For selected patients, this procedure is very effective with minimal side effects and for many, it is obviously a preferred option to a hysterectomy because it allows these women the chance of starting a family,” he said.

Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Sandringham Hospital, Dr Peter Lutjen, said recent advances in gynaecological interventional radiology, such as VM embolisation, provided valuable options for the treatment of many patients. “Both gynaecologists and their patients need to be made more aware of these new options.”

Professor Thomson said the minimally invasive procedure was also used to treat aneurysms (burst blood vessels of the brain and elsewhere) and non-cancerous fibroid tumours which form in the wall of the uterus. However, embolisation of fibroids should only be done in consultation with a patient’s gynaecologist.

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