Uterine fibroid embolization is nonsurgical alternative for women

Interventional radiologists at Upstate now offer uterine fibroid embolization, a nonsurgical treatment for noncancerous growths in the uterus.

The procedure involves inserting a catheter in the groin and using X-ray dye to create an arterial road map to the uterus. The doctor advances the catheter and deposits bead-like particles in the arteries that feed the fibroids.

“These particles go to all the fibroids in the uterus and preferentially block the blood supply. So essentially, I’m denying blood flow and oxygen to the fibroids,” explained Chadi Zeinati MD, an assistant professor of radiology at Upstate. The procedure takes a couple of hours and the patients stay overnight and are usually back to regular activities within two to three days.

Embolization is successful with fibroids of all sizes in most locations. Medical opinion is mixed about whether the procedure is a good treatment choice for certain large fibroids, the Mayo Clinic web site says. The concern is that a fibroid could detach after embolization and create an infection if retained in the uterus – although these are rare occurrences.

In addition to infection, other risks include damage to other organs, radiation exposure and the development of scar tissue. This procedure is not for women who want to optimize their chances for pregnancy. It’s also not appropriate for women with a history of pelvic radiation, kidney failure or pelvic infections, poorly-controlled diabetes, inflamed blood vessels, bleeding disorders, possible pelvic cancer or an allergy to contrasts containing iodine.

“The risks of the procedure, possible complications and short- and long-term prognosis must be measured on an individual basis against the well-studied surgical alternatives. Patient preference is an important component of this evaluation,” especially in those wishing to become pregnant, researchers wrote in the Journal of Obstetrics Gynaecology Canada, in 2004 when the procedure was new.

Gynecology and interventional radiology work closely to determine whieh patients are appropriate for these procedures, which are performed by Zeinati. Reach him by calling Upstate Connect at 1-315-464-8668. Listen to Zeinati’s recent radio interview about uterine fibroid embolization.

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