Uterine fibroids embolization (UFE), a relatively new procedure to be added to the range of available treatments for uterine fibroids and other medical complaints concerning the female reproductive tract, has proven to be groundbreaking in terms of methods, recovery time, and the preservation of fertility and uterine function after recovery.
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One procedure is effective for multiple fibroids.
The recurrence of treated fibroids is very rare.
There is a short recovery period. The patient generally has to stay in the hospital overnight and can resume normal activities a week after surgery.
There is very little blood loss and no large surgical incision or need for general anesthesia.
Nearly 90 percent of women experience significant or total relief of heavy bleeding, pain, and other symptoms.
While initial findings were inconclusive, they showed promise for women who had hoped their uterine fibroids, and the treatment required, would not close the door on the option of pregnancy down the line. Since uterine fibroids primarily affect women in their late reproductive years, and more and more women are choosing to conceive after establishing careers and working on other life goals, uterine fibroids, despite innovations in treatment options, can be especially devastating to a woman's plans to bear children.
Until recently, a commonly preferred treatment for fibroids has been myomectomy, or surgical removal of fibroids, while others include using extreme cold, targeted lasers, high-frequency ultrasound, or hysterectomy – the complete removal of the uterus – to stop or control fibroid growth. Myomectomy requires a long recovery period and can lead to uterine scarring, hysterectomy destroys all chances of conception, and the other treatments available have prognoses that are bleak at best when it comes to preserving women’s fertility.
But UFE, practiced for over two decades in a limited capacity, has made huge strides towards winning the favor of doctors and patients in the past few years. Proponents of the procedure point to a recent Yale University study that shows increasing acceptance of UFE by gynecologists, to advances in the engineering of successful embolic agents, and to several researchers’ and doctors’ findings about successful pregnancies that have occurred in patients who underwent the procedure.
One study that has recently gained the attention of experts in the field was conducted by Dr. Gaylene Pron and her colleagues at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s 28th Annual Meeting (March 2003). The study, entitled the Ontario Uterine Fibroid Embolization Trial, involved 555 women from different medical centers and compared the results of hysterectomy with those of UFE. Of the group studied, seventeen women reported pregnancies, with two reporting more than one pregnancy. Fourteen of these women had live births and three had miscarriages. Most of the women in the group had been advised to undergo hysterectomy instead of UFE.
In October 2003, the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology published a case study conducted by Arianna D'Angelo, Nazar N. Amso, of the University Hospital of Wales College of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Andrew Wood, of the Department of Radiology. This study presented the case of a woman who had undergone UFE and subsequently become pregnant with twins, a much more stressful event for the uterus than single births.
Researchers and doctors continue to study individuals and groups of women who have become pregnant following UFE treatment. Though further evidence is needed to accurately assess success rates and risks, these findings represent positive steps towards the approval of UFE as a fertility-preserving uterine fibroid treatment.