A uterine fibroid is a specific type of tumor that occurs in the muscle cells of the uterus. It affects up to 40 percent of premenopausal women, but only 10 percent of premenopausal women actually develop symptoms.
Unlike other tumors, uterine fibroids don’t spread to other regions of the body and typically are not dangerous. But they can be very painful and interfere with a woman’s active lifestyle.
Symptoms include uterine pressure or pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal enlargement, pain with intercourse, constipation, and frequent urination. Women at increased risk for developing fibroids include women who are overweight, African-American, over the age of 40, have high blood pressure, have had no children, and have first-degree relatives with fibroids. Because most women will not exhibit every symptom, diagnosis is usually confirmed through imaging of the pelvis, with transvaginal ultrasound or MRI.
Uterine fibroid embolization. To treat uterine fibroids, board-certified interventional radiologists at Silver Cross offer a minimally invasive technique called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which involves less risk, less pain and less recovery time than traditional surgery.
Fibroids require a blood supply to grow. Without it, some or all of the tumor will die. With UFE, the interventional radiologist can access the blood vessel that carries nutrients to the tumor through a small incision in the groin. Using a form of real-time X-ray imaging called fluoroscopy, he or she is able to guide the delivery of embolic agents to the uterus and fibroids. These agents block the arteries that provide blood to the fibroids and cause them to shrink. Studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of women who undergo UFE experience significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms.
After undergoing uterine fibroid embolization, patients are usually admitted overnight in the hospital to manage any pain resulting from the treatment. Patients are typically sent home with an oral pain medication that will likely be needed for an additional few days. Patients should be back to their normal activity in about one week and should follow up with their interventional radiologist and their gynecologist a few weeks later.