Uterine fibroids (also called myomas or leiomyomas) are benign growths in or on the walls of the uterus that often appear during a woman's childbearing years. They are usually discovered incidentally during a pelvic examination or prenatal ultrasound exam.
Uterine fibroids seldom require treatment because they rarely cause any symptoms. However, some women with uterine fibroids may experience heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination or constipation.
For women with discomfort or troublesome symptoms associated with uterine fibroids, there are multiple surgical procedures and medical therapies available to remove or shrink them. Women should consult their gynecologists to determine the best course of action.
Imaging of the uterus by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is performed prior to a procedure to determine if fibroid tumors are the cause of the patients symptoms and to fully assess the size, number and location of the fibroids.
For some women, the only definitive surgical treatment may be hysterectomy (the removal of the uterus). However, hysterectomy is a major surgical procedure and it ends a woman's ability to have children. Women who are still considering bearing children may elect to have a myomectomy, where only the fibroids are surgically removed, leaving the uterus in place.
Another possible treatment option to alleviate the symptoms caused by uterine fibroids is uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive procedure performed by specialists at NYPBMH.
UFE is a non-surgical procedure that works by decreasing the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink. Uterine fibroid embolization is best suited for the treatment of intramural fibroids (fibroids that grow within the uterine wall).
During the procedure, a thin tube is inserted into a small incision at the top of the leg and guided by x-ray imaging to the uterine artery where small particles are injected to block the blood flow to the fibroids. The procedure takes about an hour to complete, with a one-week recovery period. After UFE, symptoms can be expected to decrease considerably by the next menstrual cycle.
UFE is the least invasive of all the minimally invasive procedures that treat uterine fibroids. Because the effect of uterine fibroid embolization on fertility is not fully understood, UFE is typically offered to women who no longer wish to become pregnant or who want or need to avoid having a hysterectomy.