Nonsurgical treatment for uterine fibroids available at Brigham and Women's Hospital
In the past, women who have suffered from symptoms due to uterine
fibroids have often had a hysterectomy. Today, many women are
considering uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive,
nonsurgical treatment that shrinks the fibroids and spares the uterus.
Offered at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, UFE is a proven medical
procedure that alleviates symptoms due to fibroids, which are common
benign muscle tumors that grow in and out of the uterus, typically
starting in a woman’s mid-30s.
“Although fibroids are benign growths, they still cause many problems
for women,” said interventional radiologist Susan O’Horo, M.D.
These problems can include heavy and prolonged periods, pain in the
pelvis, pain with intercourse, urinary frequency and breakthrough
bleeding between periods. In addition, fibroid location can impede
pregnancy by blocking fertilized egg implantation.
Not all women who have fibroids will experience these symptoms. But
fibroids that are symptomatic can seriously impact a woman’s quality of
life. It was after years of heavy bleeding and painful cramps that
Lynne, 46, of Dracut, decided to have uterine fibroid embolization.
“I missed a few days of work every month due to my heavy and painful
periods,” she said. “I would plan my vacations around them.”
After an MRI confirmed the presence of fibroids, Lynne’s gynecologist
referred her to Chieh-Min Fan, M.D., associate director of
interventional radiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“I knew I did not want a hysterectomy and asked my gynecologist if there were other options,” said Lynne.
“UFE cuts off the blood supply to uterine fibroids,” said O’Horo. “Many
women have fibroids. Not all women who have fibroids have symptoms that
are severe enough to warrant therapy. If a woman’s symptoms are so
severe that she is considering having her uterus surgically removed,
she should also consider UFE, a minimally invasive therapeutic option.
This procedure is for pre-menopausal women who do not desire a future
O’Horo suggests that women with symptomatic fibroids should discuss
their options with their gynecologist and have a gynecological exam and
Pap test without abnormal findings. Other options to treat fibroids
include birth control pills; hormone therapy; myomectomy, a surgery to
remove the fibroids; or hysterectomy, a surgery to remove the uterus.
At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, UFE is a one-hour procedure performed
by an interventional radiologist. Most patients resume normal
activities within seven to 14 days, and, within three months resume
regular, lighter and shorter menstrual cycles.
“Although there are many minimally invasive surgical options, UFE
involves only a needle stick and is therefore the least invasive option
for treatment of fibroids. As such, many women are choosing UFE over
surgery,” said O’Horo. “Another nonsurgical option is the FDA-approved
use of focused ultrasound for uterine fibroids, a noninvasive treatment
that has shown a significant reduction in symptoms.”
Lynne, who was back to work within three days of her UFE treatment,
says she has not experienced any severe periods since her procedure.
After six months, Lynne had a follow-up MRI that confirmed her fibroids
had significantly decreased in size.
“I am very happy with the results of my uterine fibroid embolization. I
no longer have to worry about missing work or canceling my vacations,”