Non-Surgical Alternative to Hysterectomy Eases Pain of Fibroid Tumors
09/17/2009

ALLEN, Texas — For several days each month, Veronica Thompson put her life on hold — declining invitations from friends, keeping extra clothes handy and experiencing excruciatingly painful cramps — the result of extremely heavy menstrual cycles caused by fibroid tumors of the uterus.

Today, thanks to a minimally invasive procedure performed at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen, Thompson no longer allows a calendar to dictate her daily activities.

The McKinney resident opted for uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a proven non-surgical alternative to a hysterectomy that typically allows women to return to their regular routines within seven to 10 days.

“I became angry, as the doctors I had seen prior to coming to Texas Health Allen were offering me choices that I didn’t consider appropriate, such as a hysterectomy,” Thompson said. “I didn’t want to have a hysterectomy, as I considered that too extreme, so I jumped on the computer and began looking for alternatives.”

Thompson’s search led her to Dr. Adrian Moger, a vascular and interventional radiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Allen. Last New Year’s Eve, Thompson checked into the hospital for the UFE procedure and went home the next day. Almost immediately, the excessive bleeding and pain during her cycles ceased.

“I came into the New Year a new woman,” Thompson said. “I can’t begin to tell you what a difference this had made in my life.”

Fibroid tumors are benign tumors that arise from the muscular wall of the uterus. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), about 20 to 40 percent of women over age 35 have fibroids, and up to 50 percent of African-American women. These tumors can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pain and pressure on the bladder or bowel.

Approved by the ACOG as a treatment for fibroid tumors, uterine fibroid embolization does not require general anesthesia, causes minimal scarring and unlike a hysterectomy, does not require removal of the uterus — a distinct advantage for women who may want to have children, said Moger. In addition, it has an 85 percent success rate and usually requires a hospital stay of less than 24 hours, he said.

Before the procedure, patients undergo an ultrasound or MRI to identify the extent and location of the fibroid tumors and the arteries that are supplying blood to them. State-of-the-art fluoroscopy, an imaging technique that provides real-time moving images of internal structures, is used during the procedure to guide micro catheters – smaller than the lead of a pencil – into the uterine artery. The catheters deliver FDA-approved medical particles into the arteries, effectively blocking off the blood supply to the fibroids. Once that occurs, the fibroids generally shrink and die.

“The procedure is about 85 percent effective, with low risks and no need for anesthesia,” Moger said. “In addition, the recovery period is very short compared to surgical alternatives. Hysterectomy patients can take as long as six weeks to recover, while uterine fibroid embolization patients typically are back at work and fully active within one to two weeks.”

For Thompson, the procedure has been life-altering.

“My periods used to be so heavy that it got to the point that I had to take clothes to change into, as I would bleed through my clothes,” she said. “It was embarrassing and uncomfortable, and literally for a week, I would hardly even move.

“Now, life is awesome — as I don’t have to check the calendar and see what day is coming up, when I am deciding whether to plan things with friends. It’s not even an issue anymore.”

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen is a 62-bed acute-care hospital serving the northern Collin County area since 2000. The hospital’s services include women’s services, a Level II neonatal intensive care unit, orthopedics, pediatrics, wound care and sleep medicine. Texas Health Allen, an affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, has more than 425 physicians on its medical staff practicing in more than 25 specialties. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL or visit TexasHealth.org/Allen.