Uterine Fibroid Embolization: Minimally Invasive Alternative to Hysterectomy

As a college professor, Lorri Glass, Ph.D., of Homewood appreciates the value of thorough research

So when her uterine fibroids started causing uncomfortable cramping and unexpectedly heavy bleeding in 2008, Glass did some research and discovered uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) at Ingalls. A minimally invasive alternative to hysterectomy, UFE treats just the fibroids, leaving the uterus intact.

“That was important to me,” the Governors State University social work instructor explained. “I didn’t want to have major surgery, and I didn’t want to deal with the issues that can accompany hysterectomy. It was important for me to have another option.”

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow on or within the muscle tissue of the uterus, affecting up to 40 percent of women 35 years and older. Fibroids are twice as common among African-American women.

Fibroids range from very small (walnut size) to as large as a cantaloupe, or larger. Symptoms include heavy, prolonged periods, pelvic pain, and an abnormally enlarged abdomen, all of which can negatively impact quality of life.

“Fibroids are hormonally sensitive so symptoms are usually cyclical, like menstruation,” explains Kevin Keele, M.D., board-certified interventional radiologist on staff at Ingalls who performs UFEs.

Ingalls is one of the only south suburban hospitals to offer this safe, effective treatment.

“UFE blocks the arteries that supply blood to the fibroids, and is successful more than 90 percent of the time,” Dr. Keele added.

The procedure is performed with local anesthesia. A small skin nick is made in the groin region to place a catheter (a hollow tube about the size of a spaghetti noodle) into the femoral artery. The catheter is steered into the larger of the uterine arteries and small particles (the size of a grain of sand) are mixed with X-ray dye and injected until the blood supply to the fibroids is blocked.

Eventually, the fibroid tumor shrivels up and is reabsorbed into the body. The entire procedure takes 60 to 90 minutes, and most patients are observed for 23 hours, and the discharged the next day.

Benefits include a more rapid recovery and return to normal activities; virtually no blood loss; potential preservation of fertility; and reproductive organs and supporting structures remain intact.

Glass, who underwent a UFE at Ingalls last summer, is so pleased with the results, she agreed to share her story at a recent Ingalls program on the topic.

“I would definitely recommend this to other women. If your doctor doesn’t tell you about UFE, ask. Don’t settle for a hysterectomy if you really don’t need it.”

Call for a brochure or a consultation with one of the experienced specialists at Ingalls, at 1.800.221.CARE(2273).

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