A uterine fibroid (leiomyoma) is a specific type of tumor that occurs in the muscle cells of the uterus, a condition affecting approximately 20 to 40 percent of premenopausal women. However, only 5 to 10 percent of premenopausal women actually develop symptoms due to fibroids.
These growths do not spread to other regions of the body, as with other tumors, and are typically not dangerous. Symptoms caused by uterine fibroids include uterine pressure or pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal enlargement, pain with intercourse, constipation, and frequent urination. Women are at increased risk for developing fibroids if they are overweight, African-American, over the age of 40, have high blood pressure, have had no children, and have first-degree relatives with fibroids. Because most women will not exhibit every potential symptom, diagnosis is usually confirmed by using imaging of the pelvis, with transvaginal ultrasound or MRI.
To treat uterine fibroids, board-certified interventional radiologists can deliver minimally invasive treatments with less risk, less pain and less recovery time than traditional surgery..
Fibroids require a blood supply (for oxygen and nutrients) to continue to grow. Without it, some or all of the tumor will die. To treat the uterine fibroids, an interventional radiologist performs a treatment called uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE. With UFE, the interventional radiologist can access the blood vessel carrying nutrients to the tumor through a small incision in the groin. A catheter, or small tube, is placed inside the femoral artery and is guided to the fibroid’s blood supply. Once the catheter is in the proper position, the interventional radiologist releases small particles at the targeted location to block the small vessels and deprive the fibroid of nutrients, resulting in the fibroid shrinking in size. Approximately nine out of 10 patients who undergo uterine fibroid embolization will experience significant improvement or their symptoms will go away completely.