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Uterine Fibroid Embolization Endorsed as Safe and Effective

Posted on Sep 1, 2008

A minimally invasive procedure for treatment of fibroid tumors offered by Fairfax Radiology recently received the recommendation of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as “a safe and effective option” for women.

This uterine sparing treatment for women with symptomatic fibroids, is performed by Interventional Radiologists and has been available in the United States since 1997. FRC has offered the service since 1998. However, its adoption has been slow and several studies have shown this alternative to hysterectomy is not being widely discussed with patients by their gynecologists.

In its August practice bulletin, “Alternatives to Hysterectomy in the Management of Leiomyomas,”
ACOG listed UFE among Level A treatment options, meaning that the minimally invasive treatment is considered safe and effective based on long- and short-term outcomes data. Level A evidence is the highest grade possible. The ACOG practice bulletin is used by doctors to aid in making decisions about appropriate patient care.

“This endorsement from ACOG is likely to prompt gynecologists to discuss all treatment options for symptomatic uterine fibroids—including UFE—if they are not already doing so,” said David J. Spinosa, M.D., RVT and Section Chief of Interventional RAdiology for Fairfax RAdiology.

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that can cause prolonged, heavy menstrual bleeding that can be severe enough to cause anemia or require transfusion; disabling pelvic pain and pressure; urinary frequency; pain during intercourse; and miscarriage. Twenty to 40 percent of women age 35 and older have uterine fibroids of a significant size. African-American women are at a higher risk for fibroids (as many as 50 percent have fibroids of a significant size).

UFE, which is also sometimes referred to as Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE), blocks tiny blood vessels that feed fibroids, causing the tumor to die and symptoms to subside. An interventional radiologist uses imaging to guide a thin catheter to the uterine artery to treat the source of the disease internally, avoiding open surgery. The procedure offers less risk, less pain and a shorter recovery time compared to open surgery, such as hysterectomy or Myomectomy.

Patients are typically admitted for one night following the procedure and are seen by the interventional radiologist for follow-up. FRC offers the procedure at Inova Fairfax Hospital, Inova Fair Oaks Hospital and Inova Loudoun Hospital.

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