Less invasive procedure for treatment of uterine fibroids is effective

Women who suffer from the frustrating and painful chronic symptoms of uterine fibroids have a safe and effective alternative to surgery according to new five-year studies presented at an annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology held in April. Studies found that uterine fibroid embolization has a 73 percent success rate at five years.

"This procedure offers many benefits over surgery," said Dr. Nilesh Patel, director of interventional radiology at Rush University Medical Center, who helped establish the national practice guidelines for uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). "Most importantly for many women, it preserves the uterus."

The procedure uses microscopic beads injected into uterine arteries to cut off blood supply and shrink the fibroids without the need for surgery. UFE is performed using a small catheter inserted into the femoral artery at the top of the leg.

Compared to several days of hospitalization and weeks of recovery after myomectomy (surgical removal of fibroids) or hysterectomy, patients undergoing UFE go home the very next day and routinely return to normal activities within a week.

Uterine fibroids are one of the most common medical problems affecting women ages 35 to 50. Studies have found that between 20 and 40 percent of all women will develop these benign tumors located within the wall of the uterus sometime in their lifetime. While the reason is not understood, the incidence is two to three times higher in African-American women. It is estimated that nearly 50-percent of African-American women suffer fibroids of a significant size and require medical treatment.

Symptoms of uterine fibroids include pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, feeling of fullness in the pelvic area, frequent urination, pain during sex, lower back pain, anemia, and reproductive problems.

Not all fibroids can be treated with UFE. At Rush, patients are screened using MRI to ensure the fibroids will respond to this treatment. The MRI gives physicians an accurate depiction of how large the fibroids are and where they are located. In addition, it helps the interventional radiologist rule out other pelvic conditions.

"Many physicians have been waiting for more long-term data before recommending uterine fibroid embolization," said Patel. "This new data is good news for the hundreds of thousands of women who are seeking relief from painful uterine fibroids," said Patel.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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