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Fibroids and Uterine Artery Embolization

One in five women between the ages of 18 and 50 will develop fibroids.  These are noncancerous tumors of the womb, but have been nicknamed "fireballs" by women with symptoms ranging from heavy bleeding to severe pain requiring a hysterectomy.  In fact, fibroids are the reason given for nearly 200,000 hysterectomies per year in the United States alone, creating a strong demand for less invasive therapies.

There are a number of options to treat fibroids before hysterectomy:  there are hormonal medical therapies; conservative surgery called "myomectomy" which removes the fibroids, but leaves the uterus; and a minimally invasive procedure called "Uterine Artery Embolization" or UAE.

UAE is performed in a hospital by an interventional radiologist under light anesthesia.  In this procedure, the uterine arteries are entered with a thin catheter inserted through veins in the leg.  Tiny particles like grains of sand are injected through the catheter to cut off the blood flow to the fibroids.  This causes them to shrink, thus eliminating or greatly reducing their symptoms.  [An overnight hospital stay is usually required for observation and total recovery takes about a week.]

While this is a relatively new procedure, more than 7,000 UAE's have already been performed in the United States.  [Data show that 9 out of 10 patients who have the UAE experience significant relief of their symptoms.  While preserving fertility cannot be guaranteed, many women who have had the procedure have gone on to deliver healthy, full term children after uncomplicated pregnancies.]

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Created: 8/31/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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