Uterine Fibroids? Hysterectomy Is NOT Your Only Option.

A uterine fibroid is a noncancerous growth in the uterus. Up to 40% of women over 35 have uterine fibroids, and African-American women are up to three times more likely to develop them than women of other ethnicities.

Fibroids can be small (the size of a grape) or they can grow to be as large as a cantaloupe. Some women with fibroids don’t even know they have them. But for others, the symptoms can be severe, causing embarrassment and affecting their quality of life.

How severe? Some women have reported menstrual periods lasting as long as a month, with painful cramping and heavy bleeding that requires frequent tampon changing. For these women, normal life completely disappears and is replaced with a rigorous regimen of preparation and precaution.

Traditional treatment options

When fibroid symptoms become severe, many women are advised by their doctor to undergo hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) or myomectomy (surgical removal of the fibroids). Hysterectomy is the more permanent solution of the two; with myomectomy, fibroids tend to return in less than two years.

There are up to 600,000 hysterectomies performed in the United States each year. Unfortunately, this procedure carries risks, and recent research is showing that the uterus is not as “nonessential” as previously thought.

Complications of hysterectomy—in all of its forms (vaginal, abdominal, laparoscopic, etc.)—are surprisingly high. A University of California San Francisco study (PubMed) found that women who have hysterectomy have 60% higher risk of incontinence by age 60. Other studies have demonstrated hysterectomy (without ovary removal) leads to a 2.5 times greater risk of coronary artery disease, a 4.6 times greater risk of congestive heart failure, an increased risk of certain cancers and a host of other quality-of-life issues.1 What’s more, these do not even include the normal complications associated with the hysterectomy surgical procedure itself, which occur in 17-23% of cases and can include infection, fever, hemorrhage, bladder or bowel damage and in rare cases, death2. Finally, another study showed that between 10% and 20% of women may experience deteriorated sexual function after hysterectomy.3

An option worth considering

Uterine fibroid embolization–or UFE for short–is a safe, FDA-approved and minimally invasive alternative to surgery for women with uterine fibroids. Many women have chosen UFE over other treatments as it has fewer risks, a shorter recovery time and does not lead to pelvic scarring. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis by an interventional radiologist. Using imaging, the doctor guides a catheter into the artery feeding the fibroids. Tiny beads are released, which accumulate in smaller vessels, blocking the flow of blood to the fibroids. This causes them to shrink and symptoms to significantly reduce or disappear.

The approximate success rate of UFE is 85%, making it a highly effective procedure. Complications are rare, occurring in less than 1% of cases, and most can be treated. Because the UFE option is now available, it is estimated that nearly 75% of hysterectomies have become unnecessary.

UFE is covered by most insurance plans and is recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology as a non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy.

UFE at Precision IR

If you are interested in learning more about UFE treatment at Precision IR, please give us a call during normal business hours at (947) 228-5500.

  1. Laughlin-Tommaso SK, et al. Cardiovascular and metabolic morbidity after hysterectomy with ovarian conservation: A cohort study. Menopause. 2018;25:483.
  2. Morbidity of 10 110 hysterectomies by type of approach Juha Mäkinen, Jari Johansson, Candido Tomás, Eija Tomás, Pentti K. Heinonen, Timo Laatikainen, Minna Kauko, Anna-Mari Heikkinen, Jari Sjöberg Human Reproduction, Volume 16, Issue 7, July 2001, Pages 1473–1478, https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/16.7.1473
  3. Risa Lonnée-Hoffmann and Ingrid Pinas Effects of Hysterectomy on Sexual Function Curr Sex Health Rep. 2014; 6(4): 244–251. Published online 2014 Sep 14. doi:  10.1007/s11930-014-0029-3
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