Fibroids are common non-cancerous growths that form along the muscle wall of the uterus. They can be tinier than your fingernail or as large as a cantaloupe. Most patients end up with multiple fibroids at once. Sometimes, they are asymptomatic; other times, heavy bleeding and pain accompany them. In pregnant women, their size tends to dramatically increase.
Also known as fibromyoma, leiomyomata, myoma, and leiomyoma, fibroids are the most common tumors found in the female genital tract. While most are small and do not produce symptoms, about 20-40% of women over 35 have sizable fibroids. For African-American women, that number increases to about 60%.
Fibroids most commonly occur in women ages 40 to 58, but perimenopausal women can get them in their 30s. Fibroids are a massive public health issue and need to be addressed since they are an indication for hysterectomy in premenopausal women.
Patients at Georgia Vascular Institute's Fibroid Treatment Center receive relief from their complex symptoms. Many have already been to multiple doctors and specialists and are tired of living with fibroid pain. Here is how we diagnose and treat fibroids at GVI and the results you can expect.
Uterine fibroids often go undetected for months or even years. This is problematic for pregnant women whose babies could be born at lower birth weights, which can lead to a whole series of health conditions. Paying attention to your symptoms is important. Take note of:
● An abnormally large abdomen
● Heavy and prolonged periods with unusual spotting or clotting
● Pain in the legs and back
● Pelvic pressure and pain
● Pain during sexual intercourse
● Bowel pressure resulting in bloating and constipation
● Bladder pressure causing frequent urination
To detect fibroids, a gynecologist will conduct an ultrasound at their office. This method does not detect all fibroids or underlying conditions. That is why magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is recommended. An MRI will show if a tumor needs to be embolized. This imaging technique can also help identify alternate causes of symptoms and prevent you from undergoing unnecessary treatments.
Once fibroids are detected, a form of treatment must be selected. Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure that a doctor performs while you are sedated but awake. It is painless and does not involve general anesthesia. A tiny catheter is inserted into the femoral artery using real-time imaging, and the interventional radiologist releases sand-size particles into the uterine arteries. This will stop blood from flowing to the fibroid tumor, causing it to shrink and die.
As a UFE is an outpatient procedure, you will be able to go home afterward. Light activities are usually resumed within a few days, and most patients return to normal activities within seven to 10 days. Cramping and pain can be treated with painkillers and other medications that are prescribed by your interventional radiologist.
Most women who are treated via UFE have the majority — if not the entirety — of their symptoms alleviated. A UFE can be effective for treating multiple fibroids and ones that are rather large. Although long-term data is not yet available, short-term and mid-term data indicate that UFE is effective for patients and produces a low recurrence rate.
As far as the effects UFEs have on pregnancy, there are a lot of anecdotal reports of pregnancies happening post-UFE. However, there is a need for more long-term studies to determine just how much UFEs impact fertility.
Also, only a small number of women have been reported as entering menopause directly following a UFE. In that case, it is more likely to happen to women who are over 40 and are already approaching menopause.
Of course, as is the case with any procedure, there are a few risks to take note of. An infection has occurred in a small number of patients, but antibiotics are effective at treating it. A less than 1% chance exists of injury occurring to the uterus, which could lead to the need for a hysterectomy. Overall, the complication rates are extremely low, and UFE is considered by and large to be a safe and effective treatment option for fibroids.
If you have been diagnosed with fibroids and are considering your treatment options, you can schedule an appointment with us now. We accept Medicaid and most other insurance providers. Our team of doctors and staff are ready to answer any lingering questions or address any concerns you might have about getting a UFE to treat your fibroids. Our office provides a safe and comfortable location to receive your minimally invasive treatment and go home feeling relieved of your fibroid pain.