Uterine Fibroid Embolization Consultation at RCI
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus. Fibroids can grow as a single tumor, or there can be many of them in the uterus. They can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit. In unusual cases they can become very large, and not all women with fibroids have symptoms.
Who gets fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are common. As many as 1 in 5 women may have fibroids during their childbearing years. Fibroids are most common in women in their 40s and early 50s. Though the causes of fibroids are unknown, there are factors that can increase a woman's risk of developing them:
- Age: Fibroids become more common as women age, especially during their 30s and 40s through menopause. After menopause, fibroids usually shrink.
- Family history: Having a family member with fibroids increases your risk. If a woman's mother had fibroids, her risk of having them is about three times higher than average.
- Ethnic origin: African-American women are more likely to develop fibroids than white women.
- Obesity: Women who are overweight are at higher risk for fibroids. For very heavy women, the risk is 2-3 times greater than average.
- Eating habits: Eating a lot of red meat (e.g., beef) and ham is linked with a higher risk of fibroids. Eating plenty of green vegetables seems to protect women from developing fibroids.
What are the symptoms of fibroids?
Most fibroids do not cause any symptoms, but some women with fibroids can have:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Prolonged menstrual periods (7 days or more of menstrual bleeding)
- Pelvic pain
- Pelvic pressure or bloating
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Lower back pain
Diagnosing uterine fibroids
Ultrasound is typically the first exam used to evaluate and determine the presence of uterine fibroids. Ultrasound is effective for confirming enlargement of the uterus and showing the presence of fibroids.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) gives radiologists the best images of internal body parts, and shows the size, location and number of individual fibroids within the uterus. This helps when planning the best minimally invasive treatment for each particular case. For this reason, MRI is the standard imaging tool used by interventional radiologists.
Interventional radiologists use MRIs to determine if the fibroid can be treated using a minimally invasive treatment called uterine fibroid embolization. MRIs also detect alternate causes for symptoms, help identify pathology that could prevent a patient from having uterine fibroid embolization, and avoid ineffective treatments.
Treatment of uterine fibroids
Women who have no symptoms from their fibroids do not need to have treatment. However, women with significant symptoms may consider treatment. If you’re considering treatment for uterine fibroids, you should consult with your doctor, as well as get a second opinion from an interventional radiologist. This will help determine if you are a candidate for uterine fibroid embolization.
Non-surgical uterine fibroid embolization
Thanks to advancements in interventional radiology, there are minimally invasive options for treatment of uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroid embolization, also known as uterine artery embolization, is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed by an interventional radiologist, a medical doctor with extensive experience in diagnostic radiology. The entire fibroid treatment typically lasts less than 1 hour, and is performed as an outpatient therapy. Patients usually have to stay anywhere from 4-23 hours after the procedure is complete.
The uterine fibroid embolization procedure begins with a tiny nick in the groin area. This nick provides the interventional radiologist with access to the femoral artery in the upper thigh. Using specialized x-ray equipment, the interventional radiologist passes a catheter through the femoral artery to the uterine artery, and guides it near the location of the fibroid tumor. The interventional radiologist then releases microspheres the size of grains of sand through the catheter and into the blood flow leading to the uterine fibroid tumors.
These microspheres block the vessels around the fibroid, depriving it of the oxygen it needs to grow. The oxygen deprivation results in fibroids shrinking. The microspheres remain permanently in the blood vessels at the fibroid site.
Fibroid embolization usually requires a hospital stay of 1 night. After the procedure, you may experience some discomfort such as abdominal cramping or pain. Pain-killing medications and drugs that control swelling typically are prescribed following the procedure to treat cramping and pain. Many women resume light activities in a few days and the majority of women are able to return to normal activities within 7-10 days.
How do I schedule an appointment?
To receive an information packet from RCI Vein & Interventional Clinic, or to set up your initial consultation appointment, please call:
RCI Vein & Interventional Clinic: 319-261-0636
Toll Free: 800-747-0121
All of our interventional radiologists are board certified by the American Board of Radiology with Certificates of Advanced Qualification (CAQs) in vascular and interventional radiology. They are members of the Society for Interventional Radiology (SIR).
For further information on these and other interventional radiology procedures, visit www.sirweb.org
RCI is accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR).