Uterine fibroid embolization is a proven safe and effective treatment for women with uterine fibroids who suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding or pelvic pain. Unfortunately, despite the fact the procedure has been clearly demonstrated to be a viable, appropriate treatment, there remains a gap in information shared by gynecologists, which leaves some patients incompletely informed about all treatment options.
As recently reported in Science Daily:
"A large nationwide study examining the treatment of uterine fibroids shows that the uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive, image-guided treatment performed by interventional radiologists, is vastly underutilized, compared to hysterectomies -- especially in rural and smaller hospitals. In fact, there were more than 65 times as many hysterectomies performed than UFEs, despite data showing that UFEs result in substantially lower costs and shorter hospital stays than hysterectomies, according to research presented today at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting."
"These findings suggest there is a lack of awareness about this safe, effective and less invasive therapy for uterine fibroids," said Prasoon Mohan, M.D., MRCS, the study's lead author and assistant professor in the department of interventional radiology at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. "Interventional radiologists urge health care professionals to present patients with all available treatment options so that the patient can make an informed decision. Patients need to know about the major differences between surgical treatments and UFE, especially that this is a non-surgical treatment that preserves the uterus and has a much faster recovery time compared to hysterectomy."
According to the National Institutes of Health, a majority of women -- almost three out of four -- will develop uterine fibroids by the age of 50. Women are at increased risk for developing fibroids if they are overweight, African-American, over the age of 40, have high blood pressure, have had no children, and have first-degree relatives with fibroids.
Between 25 and 50% of women develop uterine fibroids. Women need to be aware of their treatment options and know that uterine fibroid embolization is an excellent option in appropriate instances. As an example of proper care, Drs John Fischer and Robert Zurawin collaborated on a partnership whereby they describe how gynecologists and interventional radiologists can work together for the benefit of their mutual patients. (Click here for the article)
As discussed in Radiology Today, "The two doctors and their respective partners have found that when gynecologists refer uterine fibroid patients to interventional radiologists and vice versa, everyone benefits—most importantly, the patients....The physicians’ most recent article on the effects of the gynecologist-interventional radiologist relationship on the selection of the treatment for patients with uterine fibroids can be found in the April issue of the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology. The article was based on their study of 226 women seeking UFE for symptomatic fibroids. In it, they concluded that gynecologists’ “fear” of losing uterine fibroid patients to interventional radiologists is groundless and that both specialties get more patients when they each carefully select them."
With uterine fibroid embolization, a small tube (catheter) is guided to the artery supplying the uterus and fibroids. Small particles are then delivered into the arteries, blocking blood flow to the fibroids and causing them to shrink over time. Women undergoing this procedure can anticipate spending the evening overnight in the hospital. Pain and nausea from the procedure can be moderate, but are treated appropriately with several medications. By the morning, nearly all women feel well and are discharged with appropriate followup medications and instructions. Subsequent to the treatment, the fibroids begin to shrink and continue to do so for several months. Typically, an MRI of the pelvis is obtained before the procedure, and six months post-procedure to confirm adequate treatment of the fibroids.
As repeated in Radiology Today, "UFE has an impressive success rate: 85% to 90% of women who undergo UFE experience relief from their symptoms within a few months and are able to return to their normal routines within seven to 10 days vs. four to six weeks with surgery. Also, with UFE, recurrence of treated fibroids is rare."