Healthwatch: Uterine Artery Embolization

Fibroid tumors affect a third of the female population in the U.S. Fibroids are benign, but in rare cases, may become cancerous. They more often cause pain, pressure and bleeding.

While many undergo surgical removal, which may mean 6 to 8 weeks of convalescence, others are candidates for Uterine Artery Embolization.

Interventional radiologist, Dr. John Blackwell of Rush Imaging Clinic, says this type of treatment has definite advantages.

"One of the benefits of this procedure is that it's minimally invasive," said Blackwell. "The recovery time is quite short. Patients can often get back to work in a week or two after this procedure's complete, whereas, with a traditional hysterectomy, it's several week of recovery afterward before they can return to full activities."

Blackwell says many women don't want to or can't miss weeks and weeks of work time. This procedure calls for a nick in the skin, rather than an incision.

"What we can do is stop the flow of blood to the uterus, and therefore the fibroids, by injecting small particles into the artery that supplies the uterus," said Blackwell. "And in doing so cause the fibroids to die and shrink over time."

Uterine Artery Embolization may not be appropriate for every patient. Blackwell encourages women to discuss the option with their obstetrician-gynecologist.

"We, of course, want to evaluate any woman pre-procedure with an ultrasound, possibly an MRI, if necessary, to make sure the anatomy is favorable for this type of treatment," Blackwell said.

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