The three common types of uterine fibroids
Fibroid tumours are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop in the wall of the uterus. They occur in 30-70% of women and are particularly common in Afro-Caribbeans. Whilst fibroids do not always cause trouble, abdominal swelling, heavy or prolonged bleeding and pressure symptoms on the bladder and bowel are common. They typically shrink after menopause when the level of oestrogen, the female hormone that circulates in the blood, decreases dramatically. However, menopausal women who are taking hormone replacement therapy may not experience relief of symptoms.
Fibroids range in size from that of a pea to the size of a melon. In some cases they can grow so big that the woman can look pregnant.
What is Interventional Radiology?
An Interventional Radiologist is a physician who is specially trained to diagnose and treat many conditions using tiny, miniaturised tools, while monitoring their progress on X-ray or other imaging equipment. Typically, the Interventional Radiologist performs procedures through a very small nick in the skin. Because this treatment does not use a surgical incision the patient benefits from a much shorter stay in hospital and recovery time is reduced to 1-2 weeks. The Interventional Radiologist will work closely with the primary care doctor and Gynaecologist to ensure the highest standards of care.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
This minimally invasive procedure, previously known as Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE), is carried out while the patient is conscious but sedated, drowsy and feeling no pain.
A small, 1.5mm nick is made in the skin in the groin area and a catheter inserted into the artery. The catheter is guided through the arterial tree to the uterus while the Radiologist watches the progress of the procedure using a moving x-ray (fluoroscope).Tiny plastic or gelatin particles the size of grains of sand are injected into the artery that is supplying blood to the fibroids, cutting off the flow. Both left- and right-sided arteries are treated, usually requiring a single micro-incision.
After 1-2 nights in hospital the patient is allowed home and can resume normal activity as soon as she feels able. This can vary from a few days up to 2-3 weeks.
The fibroids shrink over the following months.
Exeter Radiology are happy to take overseas referrals and can review MRI and US scans performed in your home country before you travel to UK to ensure you do not have a wasted journey. We will liase with your local doctor and Gynaecologist for all pre and post UFE care. Advice can be given on travel and follow up arrangements.