Uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE, a new and surprisingly successful treatment for uterine fibroids, began to demand the attention of health and medical news specialists about a year ago, when the then-experimental treatment began proving its high rate of success and low rate of complications in the form of more and more satisfied patients and physicians.
Now that excitement has made its way into mainstream health and medicine reporting: In the past few months, stories about UFE have appeared in special reports from NBC Nightly News, on the television news magazine 20/20, and in The Wall Street Journal.
“As more women . . . learn there is an alternative to hysterectomy, they are insisting their doctors consider if it’s right for them,” said NBC correspondent Robert Bazell in his August 25, 2004 MSNBC story, which appeared as the main Health feature on NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw the night before.
ABC’s 20/20 with Barbara Walters also reported the growing popularity of the procedure in a story that appeared on television in August, with commentary from patients and experts, many of whom felt that UFE had the potential to be a “win-win” option for everyone.
A recent Wall Street Journal article also noted the unique benefits of the treatment. “Some patients, and even some gynecologists, say many gynecologists aren't telling their patients about the alternative . . . In the large majority of cases, [UFE] brings relief from uterine fibroid tumors, and it has a much shorter recovery time than hysterectomies,” noted an August, 24, 2004 article available at www.wsj.com.
Uterine fibroids are one of the most common afflictions of women in their late reproductive years. They are non-cancerous tumors that grow in the uterus, and may cause bleeding, abdominal pain, back pain, anemia, urinary and digestive symptoms, as well as infertility or miscarriage.
Hysterectomy was a commonly recommended option for women with symptomatic fibroids, but as more and more women learn of the alternatives, they are fighting for minimally invasive procedures – and, moreover, to be included in important medical decisions regarding their own health.
UFE is performed by inserting a narrow tube called a catheter into the femoral artery and threading it up to the artery that feeds the fibroid or fibroids in the uterus. Then a liquid filled with tiny particles, each about the size of a grain of sand, is injected into the artery. Once in the blood stream, the particles are flushed through the artery and get lodged in the smaller circulatory pathways feeding the fibroids, where they stop blood flow to the growths, causing them to stop growing and shrink inside the body, which in turn causes symptoms to subside. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis, and most patients go home to experience virtually no pain and few aftereffects.
There are a number of minimally invasive procedures available, but as UFE has become more available, it has proven its effectiveness and low rate of complications. Now the treatment is demanding unique attention among patients, doctors, and other people concerned with finding an effective way to treat fibroids and improve patients’ overall health and quality of life.