Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)—a non-surgical procedure that treats troublesome uterine fibroids—improves both sex and quality of life among women who have the procedure, according to a French multicenter study.1
“Women with uterine fibroids often experience troubling symptoms and significant discomfort, which diminish their sex lives and reduce their quality of life, “ says Helene Vernhet- Kovacsik, M.D., the study’s lead researcher and an interventional radiologist in the department of vascular radiology at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Montpellier, France, in a Society of Interventional Radiology Press Release.1 “These symptoms include heavy menstrual bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse, pelvic pain and back and leg pain.”
Overall, 264 women spanning 25 medical centers in France participated in the study and underwent UFE for treatment of fibroids.1 Women enrolled in the study completed a Uterine Fibroid Symptom and Health-related Quality of Life Questionnaire (UFE-QoL), an assessment that measures quality of life on a 0-100 scale with increasing scores denoting better quality of life. Woman also completed a Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), an additional questionnaire designed to track sexual function, which touched on factors such as feelings of desire, arousal, lubrication, and orgasm. Using these tools, women were able to report their quality of life and sexual function before UFE treatment and one year after.
When the study started, 189 of the 264 women (71.6%) suffered from heavy periods and 171 (64.8%) had pain, along with other symptoms like pelvic pressure. When Vernhet-Kovacsik and her team followed up with the women one-year post-UFE, only 39 of the initial 189 women (20.6%) still had abnormal bleeding and only 42 of the 171 (24.6%) experienced pelvic pressure.
In terms of sexual function, almost 80% of women who completed the survey one year after treatment reported a better sex life—which included improved feelings of desire, arousal, satisfaction, and decreased pain. What’s more, about 90% of women who filled out the quality of life questionnaire said they had a better overall quality of life, with average scores improving from 45 at the time of treatment to 71 a year after the procedure.
How does UFE make such significant improvements possible?
Because UFE is a minimally invasive alternative to surgery, it only requires making a small nick in the wrist or upper thigh. Through this small incision, a doctor called an interventional radiologist inserts a thin tube called a catheter into a nearby artery. With real-time imaging, the catheter is then threaded into the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroids. The doctor then releases tiny particles that resemble grains of sand into the uterine arteries in order to block the blood flowing to the fibroids. Without a blood supply, fibroids shrink and symptoms subside.
Studies examining the importance of sex in both short- and long-term relationships have consistently indicated that relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction go hand in hand.2,3 For couples affected by fibroids, sexual satisfaction can be a challenge. But because of effective treatment options, like UFE, women with fibroids can reclaim their sexuality without the need for surgery.
“Through our expertise in performing image-guided therapy, interventional radiologists pioneered the treatment of uterine fibroids using this much less invasive technique,” the authors explain. “Working in collaboration with a patient’s gynecologist, interventional radiologists can now offer these women a treatment option which alleviates chronic pain within the female reproductive system and allows the opportunity to lead a full and more normal life.”1
- Society of Interventional Radiology. (2016). Non-surgical fibroid treatment: Research shows improved sexual desire, function. Retrieved December 20, 2016, from http://www.sirweb.org/misc/2016_ASM_releases/UFE_sexualfunction_finalembargoed.pdf
- McNulty, J., Wenner, C., & Fisher, T. (2016). Longitudinal associations among relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and frequency of sex in early marriage. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(1): 85-97. doi: 10.1007/s10508-014-0444-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25518817
- Fallis, E., Rehman, U., Woody, E., & Purdon, C. (2016). The longitudinal association of relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction in long-term relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(7): 822-831. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27077235