Uterine fibroids are the most common types of tumors of the female reproductive tract. They are very common, but in most women they either cause minor symptoms or no symptoms at all. Up to 40% of women over 35 have uterine fibroids, and they are more prevalent in African American women.
Uterine fibroids are the most frequent reason for hysterectomy in women who have not yet gone through menopause. Every year, around 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the United States, and one-third of these hysterectomies are due to uterine fibroids, which can cause heavy, prolonged menstrual periods, pelvic pain, and pressure on the bladder and bowel.
With the help of advanced medical imaging techniques, radiology specialists called interventional radiologists are able to offer better diagnosis of uterine fibroids, and can use minimally invasive interventional radiology techniques to treat them, avoiding the need for a hysterectomy and hospitalization in many cases.
What Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) uses advanced medical imaging to shrink or eliminate uterine fibroids. It is an alternative to hysterectomy for many women, particularly if they are through having children. Performed by an interventional radiologist, UFE blocks blood flow to fibroids, causing them to shrink and often disappear completely.
A catheter – a thin, flexible tube – is inserted into the femoral artery in the upper thigh. Contrast material is injected into the catheter, and the interventional radiologist uses a real-time x-ray technique called fluoroscopy to visualize the arteries and guide the catheter to the arteries supplying blood to the targeted fibroid.
A solution containing polyvinyl alcohol particles is injected into these arteries through the catheter. The particles accumulate in the arteries, blocking blood flow to the fibroid. The procedure usually takes one to three hours, depending on the difficulty of positioning the catheter in the arteries in the uterus.
UFE Performed at Interventional Radiology Facility
One benefit of UFE that many women appreciate is that it can often be performed in an interventional radiology facility rather than in a hospital. At these specialist facilities, interventional radiologists and nurses have access to the advanced medical imaging equipment necessary to perform UFEs, so hospital admission can be avoided. Some of these clinics are designed to offer less clinical, more “spa-like” surroundings for patients, to increase comfort and further reduce the stress of the procedure.
Dr. Hughes’ role as a South Florida Leader in UFE
Dr. Linda Hughes is the leading female interventional radiologist in South Florida and one of the leading interventional radiologists nationwide. She has extensive experience performing UFE, and as a woman, she has insight into the decision-making process that women go through when considering UFE versus other options for treating fibroids.
Certified by the American Board of Radiology in both Diagnostic Radiology and Vascular & Interventional Radiology, Dr. Hughes joined North Broward Radiologists, the affiliated practice of SteleRAD in 2008. With her particular experience and expertise in UFE, Dr. Hughes has authored numerous interventional radiology publications, including a textbook chapter on UFE.
Interventional Radiology Successes
Interventional radiology has allowed the use of advanced medical imaging to help physicians develop minimally invasive, targeted treatments. With advanced medical imaging techniques including x-rays, fluoroscopy, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), interventional radiology has led to pioneering minimally invasive procedures that result in positive patient outcomes that used to require much more invasive techniques.
Conditions that used to require open surgery for treatment can now be treated through interventional radiology techniques that offer less risk, less pain for the patient, and quicker recovery. Uterine fibroid embolization is one important procedure that has reduced the need for the major surgery of a hysterectomy.
The Board-certified radiologists of SteleRAD are leaders in all radiology subspecialties in South Florida. With over 40 years of experience, the physicians who own and operate SteleRAD offer their expertise to hospitals, imaging centers, and physician groups throughout the South Florida region. To find out more about the advanced medical imaging services performed by the physicians of SteleRAD, call 954-358-5250, or contact us online.