New Options Can Spare Women From Hysterectomy
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Razavi and his colleagues have also used embolization to shrink uterine
fibroids. Many women have fibroids, benign growths that can cause pain,
bleeding, and a feeling of heaviness in the uterus. Hysterectomy is the
traditional treatment, but in addition to loss of fertility and the associated
psychological impact, the operation can require four to six weeks of
recuperation, he says.
To embolize the fibroids, the clinicians feed a catheter through the groin
into the blood vessels that supply the fibroids, then inject tiny pellets into
the vessels to block the circulation. With no blood to nourish them, the
fibroids shrink, and symptoms are relieved.
The complications are significantly fewer than those associated with
hysterectomy, and include infection, bruising of the groin area, and a
theoretical risk of injecting the pellets into the wrong blood vessel. "All
of these complications are benign except for infection," Razavi says. The
procedure takes 60 to 90 minutes and requires only light sedation. Side effects
include cramps and fatigue for up to a week after the procedure.
Although thousands of gynecologic patients have now undergone uterine
fibroid embolization, it still requires some training on the part of the
interventional radiologist performing it, as does the procedure to stop
hemorrhaging after childbirth. Many community hospitals have no interventional
radiologists or other specialists on staff who are skilled in either procedure,
say experts speaking at the annual meeting of interventional radiologists in
Women should consult their obstetrician-gynecologists or other health care
providers to learn about the options in their communities.