Uterine Fibroid Embolization
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop within the uterus. They are also referred to as leiomyomas or myomas. They are not associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer. They develop from the myometrium, the smooth muscular tissue of the uterus. They range in size from very tiny to as large as a cantaloupe. The growth pattern of uterine fibroids varies as some may grow quickly and some slowly. If they are present during pregnancy, they can shrink and disappear after pregnancies.
Uterine Fibroid Symptoms
Uterine fibroids are most common among women of child bearing age and can be found in 25 to 40% of all women ages 35 and older. African-American women are at higher risk for fibroids. Women with a family history are also more likely to develop fibroids. Fibroids can range in size from very small to as large as a cantaloupe. While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size, location or type can lead to problems for some women, including pelvic pain, cramping, heavy menstrual bleeding, the frequent need to urinate, pain during intercourse and fertility problems.
Diagnosing Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids are frequently found incidentally during your routine pelvic exam and present as an irregularity in the shape of your uterus. Your physician may order an ultrasound, lab tests, hysterosonography, hystersalpingography, CT or MRI to confirm the presence of uterine fibroids.
What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization blocks or ‘embolizes’ the blood vessels that ‘feed’ the uterine fibroid, causing it to shrink. The UFE procedure is performed under minimal sedation, and takes about an hour. Once sedated, our interventional radiologist will insert a small catheter through the femoral artery to the uterus through a tiny incision at the top of the thigh. Using X-ray guidance and contrast material, the specific arteries that feed the uterine fibroid are identified and injected with small, about the size of a grain of sand, inert particles. The particles lodge in the blood vessels feeding the fibroids and cut off their blood supply – the uterus and ovaries are spared. After uterine fibroid embolization, the fibroids begin to shrink. The catheter is removed and you stay in the hospital overnight for observation. The fibroids continue to shrink and die for several months after fibroid embolization.
Approximately 90 percent of women who have fibroid embolization experience significant or total relief of heavy bleeding, pain and other symptoms, with some symptoms responding immediately. Women with large amounts of fibroid tissue may improve more slowly until maximum symptom resolution.
Association of Alexandria Radiologists (AAR) is proud to be a leader in the field of vascular and interventional radiology. Our board-certified, fellowship-trained physicians were among the first physicians to receive special training for UFE, and were among the earliest vascular and interventional radiologists in the mid-Atlantic area to perform uterine fibroid embolization. Our team was a principal investigator and contributor with the UFE Fibroid Registry, a national database established to access the durability of UFE and its impact on patients quality of life. A number of our interventional radiologists have been consistently recognized as ‘Top Doctors’ by the Washingtonian and Northern Virginia magazine. Meet our Interventional Radiologists here.