Uterine Fibroids and Their Symptoms
Fibroids are benign, non-cancerous growths in or on the walls of the uterus, or womb. They can range from less than an inch around to more than six inches. African-American women and those with a family history are more likely to develop fibroids.
Most fibroids cause no symptoms, and are only discovered when a woman has a routine pelvic examination. If you do experience fibroid symptoms, they may include.
- Heavy, prolonged monthly periods, sometime with clots
- Anemia (fatigue due to low red blood counts)
- Pain or pressure between the hip bones or in the back of the legs
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Frequent need to urinate
- Constipation or bloating
- An enlarged belly
If you suspect you have fibroids, your doctor should conduct an ultrasound or other imaging test to be certain.
UFE blocks the blood supply to fibroids, causing them to shrink. It is clinically proven to reduce the major symptoms of fibroids, including pain, excessive and prolonged bleeding, and frequent urination. UFE is minimally invasive, requiring only a small nick in the skin. The procedure lasts less than an hour, and patients return to work in an average of 11 days.
UFE is performed by an interventional radiologist (IR), a doctor who uses X-rays and other imaging conditions without surgery. During UFE, you are given sedation medication but remain awake. The IR inserts a thin tube into an artery at the top your thigh, then uses X-ray imaging to guide the tube to the uterine artery. Tiny round particles called Embosphere Microspheres are injected into the blood vessels that lead to the fibroids. They block blood flow, causing the fibroids to shrink. Embosphere Microspheres remain permanently at the fibroid site. The process is repeated in your other uterine artery for complete blockage of blood to the fibroid.
Patient who are ideal for UFE include women who:
- Have symptomatic fibroids
- Do not intend to get pregnant in the future
- Want to keep their uterus
- Do not want surgery
- Want an overnight or outpatient hospital stay
- May not be good candidate for surgery
You should not have this procedure if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant. The effect of UFE on the ability to become pregnant and carry a fetus to term, and on the development of the fetus, have not been determined.
While there are reports of women becoming pregnant after UFE, and having successful pregnancies, there are no scientific study results establishing the safety of UFE on fertility and pregnancy. As with any medical intervention, you should discuss the most current clinical data before deciding on the fibroid treatment option that is right for you.
Patient Satisfaction with UFE
In clinical studies conducted at 11 medical centers in the U.S., 132 women with fibroid problems were treated with Embosphere Microspheres. After 12 months, the majority had significant improvements in menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, pelvic discomfort, and frequency of urination. 90% reported being satisfied. Recent long-term reports demonstrate a 73% symptom resolution rate five years after UFE. These results are equal to or better than five-year results after myomectomy.
Ricks Associated with UFE
Overall, UFE is a safe procedure for treating symptomatic fibroids with minimal risk. Infrequent complications have been reported following UFE. The most reported risk factors and complications associate with UFE are transient amenorrhea, common short-term allergic reaction/rash, vaginal discharge/infection, possible fibroid passage, and post-embolization syndrome. The most common complications associated with hysterectomy are vaginitis, drug reactions, and urinary tract infections, with some more serious complications reported after 30 days including pneumonia, bowel injury vaginal cuff herniation, and recurrent bleeding from the vaginal stump.