Archive | December 19, 2017

Minimally Invasive, Non-surgical Procedure Treats Uterine Fibroids

Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding? Pelvic pain? Backache? Abdominal Bloating? Incontinence?

These symptoms could be due to uterine fibroids, a common condition that affects more than 50 percent of all American women by age 50 – a number that jumps to 80 percent among African American women.

Uterine fibroids are tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus. Diagnosed by ultrasound, these tumors are usually benign. Most women have a hysterectomy or myomectomy to treat them; however, there’s a minimally invasive procedure that may be an alternative to surgery for some patients.

Uterine fibroids are tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus.

At Lexington Medical Center, interventional radiologists perform uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), an image-guided, non-surgical treatment that is less painful and has a shorter recovery period than surgical options. This treatment is often just as effective as other uterine fibroid treatments.

“Interventional radiologists leverage the most advanced medical technology to perform procedures that often allow treatment of disease in a much less invasive way, where traditional open surgery was previously required,” said Jonathan K. West, MD, FAWM, interventional radiologist at Lexington Radiology Associates, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

Rather than requiring general anesthesia, UFE is an endovascular procedure performed using conscious sedation and local anesthesia for a tiny incision – just a few millimeters – in the groin. 

A small catheter is inserted through the common femoral artery in the groin and manipulated into the uterine artery on each side of the pelvis. Real-time X-rays guide the position of the catheter. Once inside the correct artery, the interventional radiologist injects tiny particles through the catheter to block the blood flow supplying the fibroids. Blocking blood flow kills cells within the fibroids and preserves the uterus. Fibroids stop bleeding, shrink in size and become softer, which helps alleviate symptoms.

Jonathan K. West, MD, FAWM

UFE takes about 45 to 90 minutes to perform, and an overnight stay in the hospital may be necessary for some patients. Others go home four to six hours after the procedure. 

“This image-guided therapy is a minimally invasive alternative that has excellent outcomes. The risks of major complications related to the procedure are lower than those of hysterectomy,” said Dr. West.

Approximately nine out of 10 patients who undergo UFE experience significant improvement, with many reporting their symptoms disappear completely.

Recurrence of fibroids is rare. Symptoms generally resolve after menopause, so younger women are at a higher risk for recurrent symptoms.

“There is a risk of symptomatic recurrence after UFE in 10 to 15 percent of patients, which may require an additional procedure or surgical therapy such as myomectomy or hysterectomy,” said Dr. West.

He recommends patients talk to their gynecologist to see if they could be a candidate for UFE.

“Working with your gynecologist can help us offer the best treatment options for you. We treat each patient in a personalized and individualized way to best suit her circumstances,” he said.

For more information on UFE and the interventional radiology procedures available at Lexington Radiology Associates, visit