What are Uterine Fibroids?
Fibroids are the most frequently seen tumors of the female reproductive system. Fibroids are firm, compact tumors that are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop in the uterus.
In more than 99 percent of the fibroid cases, the tumors are benign (non-cancerous). These tumors are not associated with cancer and do not increase a woman’s risk for uterine cancer. They may range in size, from the size of a pea to the size of a softball or small grapefruit.
Many women who have fibroids don’t have any symptoms. In those that do, symptoms can be influenced by the location, size and number of fibroids. In women who have symptoms, the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Menstrual periods lasting more than a week
- Pelvic pressure or pain
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Backache or leg pains
Uterine fibroids are diagnosed by pelvic exam and even more commonly by ultrasound. Often, a pelvic mass cannot be determined to be a fibroid on pelvic exam alone, and ultrasound is very helpful in differentiating it from other conditions such as ovarian tumors. MRI and CT can also play a role in diagnosing fibroids. If your doctor suspects you have symptomatic fibroids, they may send you to consult with one of our physicians, who specializes in the treatment of uterine fibroids, called an Interventional Radiologist (IR).
There are many treatment options for uterine fibroids and deciding which is best for you can be overwhelming. But the decision is yours to make. That’s why our staff will make sure to educate you on the pros and cons of each procedure and teach you the facts about different treatment options. Our physicians are confident you will be able to make an informed choice after consulting at our center.
One option is a procedure called uterine fibroid embolization, also known as uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). UFE offers women the opportunity to treat their fibroids while also preserving their uterus. The procedure begins with either a small nick in the skin at the wrist or groin area that is first numbed with local anesthetic. This nick in the skin provides the Interventional Radiologist (IR) with access to arteries that feed the fibroids. Using specialized x-ray equipment, the IR passes a catheter (small tube) into the incision to the uterine artery, and guides it near the location of the fibroid tumor.
When the IR has reached the location of the fibroids, embolic material (small spheres) is injected through the catheter and into the blood vessels feeding the fibroid, depriving the fibroids of oxygenated blood. The oxygen deprivation results in the fibroids shrinking. The IR repeats this procedure on the other side if necessary and proceeds to remove the catheter.
The procedure is done safely and effectively in our outpatient center. The entire procedure typically lasts less than one hour, and you are generally discharged after a short recovery time.
- Preservation of the uterus
- Decrease in heavy menstrual bleeding from symptomatic fibroids
- Decrease in pelvic pain and/or pressure
- Virtually no blood loss
- Performed as an outpatient procedure; no hospital stay
- Shorter recovery time; faster return to work (2 weeks)
- Safe procedure that involves minimal risk and fewer complications after 30 days when compared to having a hysterectomy
- Overall, significant improvement in patient’s physical and emotional well-being
- Covered by most insurance companies
Are you a candidate?
- Experiencing symptoms associated with uterine fibroids?
- Want to retain your uterus and are looking for alternatives to hysterectomy?
- Are you interested in a minimally-invasive procedure versus surgery?
- Are you not a candidate for surgery due to preexisting conditions such as obesity, bleeding disorders, or anemia?
- Not pregnant and not planning on having any more children?