Methodist Offers Advanced Treatment of Uterine Fibroids

October 16, 2012 Editorial Staff
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Uterine fibroids (also called myomas or leiyomas) are non-cancerous growths in or on the walls of the uterus that some women experience during their childbearing years. Seventy-five percent of women will develop uterine fibroids at some point in their lives. They are usually discovered during a pelvic examination or prenatal ultrasound test.

“Uterine fibroids rarely cause any symptoms and seldom require treatment,” said Michael Lewis, M.D., director of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at NY Methodist Hospital (NYM). “However, some women may find that uterine fibroids significantly impact their quality of life by causing heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination, or constipation.”

For women with discomfort or troublesome symptoms associated with uterine fibroids, NYM offers several surgical and non-surgical treatment options.

Non-surgical treatment options for the symptoms of fibroids may include birth control pills (oral contraceptives) to help control heavy periods, or intrauterine devices (IUDs) that release specific hormones to reduce heavy bleeding and pain. However, if symptoms persist, additional interventions may be required.

One possible treatment option is uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which is the least invasive of all the minimally invasive procedures that treat uterine fibroids. UFE is a non-surgical procedure that decreases the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink. UFE is commonly used to treat fibroids that are inside the uterus. However, because the effect of UFE on fertility is not fully understood, the procedure is typically offered only to women who no longer wish to become pregnant.

If UFE is chosen, “a thin tube is passed through the arteries and guided by X-ray imaging to the uterine artery, where synthetic particles that block blood flow to the fibroids are then injected,” explained Leonard F. Berliner, M.D., chief of vascular and interventional radiology at NYM.

All told, “the procedure takes about an hour, and the patient goes home the same day,” said Berliner. Post-surgery, “some symptoms can be expected to decrease considerably by the next menstrual cycle.”

Other options require surgery, the most common of which is a myomectomy, which removes the fibroids themselves, either through robotic or non-robotic laparoscopic surgery. A laparoscopic myomectomy is a minimally-invasive procedure that is performed through small incisions, and the advantage to the patient is a quicker recovery and shorter hospital stay,” said Lewis.

An additional benefit of a laparoscopic myomectomy is that it maintains the integrity of the uterus, giving the patient a better chance of getting pregnant and carrying the pregnancy to term in the future.

In some cases of UFE, the only viable treatment option may be a hysterectomy (removal of the entire uterus), which can also be performed robotically.

For referral to a physician specializing in treatment of uterine fibroids, please call NYM’s Institute for Women’s Health at 718.499.CARE (877.419.6626).

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