Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Help for Uterine Fibroids

Women with painful uterine fibroids were once told they had a single recourse—a hysterectomy. But now there’s another option. Uterine artery embolization, performed by interventional radiologists at Sinai Hospital and Northwest Hospital, is an effective, minimally invasive treatment that results in relief of symptoms.

Uterine fibroids, which grow within and around the uterus, are the most common, non-cancerous tumors in women of childbearing age, according to the National Institutes of Health. They occur in approximately one-third of all women, and African-American women are estimated to be at three to five times greater risk of developing fibroids.

“There’s a huge population of women who are debilitated by fibroids,” says Craig R. Suchin, M.D., head of Interventional Radiology at LifeBridge Health. “These fibroids can cause severe menstrual bleeding, pelvic bloating and cramping, and frequent urination. In the past the main recommendation for fibroid treatment was a hysterectomy.”

Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians who specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments performed using imaging guidance, such as X-rays or ultrasound. These procedures are less painful and require less recovery time than open surgery.

The uterine artery embolization procedure involves placement of a catheter into the uterine artery where material is deposited to block the flow of blood to the fibroid. Blockage of the blood supply causes shrinkage of the fibroids resulting in resolution of symptoms.

In addition to fibroid embolization, interventional radiologists also perform minimally invasive varicose vein treatments, where radiofrequency energy and foam sclerotherapy are used to seal off unsightly veins. Other interventional radiology procedures include chemoembolization, where cancer-fighting agents are sent directly to a malignant tumor, and needle biopsies.

Interventional radiologists also can insert gastrostomy tubes for patients unable to eat, and perform balloon angioplasties, where a small balloon is inserted into a blocked or narrowed blood vessel.

“Interventional radiology procedures are a major advance in medicine that do not require large incisions, and offer less risk, less pain and shorter recovery times compared to surgery,” says Dale B. Johnson, M.D., an interventional radiologist at LifeBridge Health.

Dr. Johnson will give a talk on uterine fibroids and the latest treatment options at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 2 at Grey Rock Mansion, 400 Grey Rock Road, Pikesville. The cost is free - to register, go to or call 410-601-WELL (9355).

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