What do heart disease, stroke, aneurysms, and uterine fibroids have in common? They’re just a handful of conditions that can now be treated without surgery. In honor of this progress, The Interventional Initiative made today annual National Without a Scalpel Day.
“In 2015, we established this day on the National Day Calendar as part of our non-profit’s broader mission to raise awareness about the value of Minimally Invasive Image-guided Procedures (MIIPs),” The Interventional Initiative explains. “The first MIIP—an angioplasty—was performed on this day in 1964 by Dr. Charles Dotter. This angioplasty opened a blocked blood vessel, allowing the patient to avoid leg amputation surgery. She left the hospital days later with only a Band-Aid.”
The same “with only a Band-Aid” mantra has now expanded into other areas of treatment and is sung among interventional radiologists and their patients worldwide—especially when these patients are women seeking nonsurgical relief for their uterine fibroids.
Uterine artery embolization (UAE) is one such treatment with a similar rich history. In 1974, French neuroradiologist Jean-Jacques Merland used UAE to treat a woman with fibroid-related heavy menstrual bleeding.1 After this success, Merland worked with gynecologist Jacques Ravina and found that UAE also controlled blood loss related to myomectomy—the surgical removal of fibroids—and decreased the need for blood transfusions.1
In 1993, Merland and Ravina went on to conduct a multicenter trial studying UAE’s safety and efficacy in treating symptomatic uterine fibroids. Published in the 1995 Lancet, their results showed UAE to completely resolve fibroid-related symptoms in nearly 70% of patients.2 Since then, most studies show favorable outcomes with only 20-30% of women requiring retreatment 5 years post-UAE—a statistic similar to that of myomectomy.3
But unlike surgery, UAE only requires a small nick in the wrist or upper thigh. An interventional radiologist inserts a slim tube called a catheter and, under real time imaging, guides it into the arteries that supply fibroids with blood. Once reached, tiny particles called embolics are injected to block blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink and symptoms to subside.
Even though uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths, they can trigger severe symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and pressure, and incontinence. Symptoms like these affect one out of every four women with fibroids, frequently causing them to seek treatment.4 “There are MIIPs to treat a wide range of diseases. Unfortunately, most people have never heard of them,” The Interventional Initiative says. “A growing body of evidence suggests that people who are more informed of their treatment options have better outcomes.”
Now interchangeably labeled uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), the procedure remains the same but with added improvements in pain management and quality of embolics used. What’s more, this outpatient procedure offers women a faster recovery time, along with fewer complications in comparison to surgery.5 And if anything, the ability to walk away with nothing more than a Band-Aid is pretty great too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a Health Freelance Writer and Editor, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and Certified Holistic Life Coach. She has master’s degrees in English Education and Nutrition. Through her writing, she empowers readers to live optimally by building awareness surrounding issues that impact health and wellbeing. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering in her community.
- Gonsalves, C. (2008). Uterine artery embolization for treatment of symptomatic fibroids. Seminars in Interventional Radiology, 25(4): 369-377. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1103001. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3036525/#__sec1title
- Ravina, J., Herbreteau, D., Ciraru-Vigneron, N, et al. (1995). Arterial embolisation to treat uterine myomata. Lancet, 346(8976): 671-672. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(95)92282-2/abstract
- Spies, J. (2016). Current role of uterine artery embolization in the management of uterine fibroids. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 59(1): 93-102. doi: 10.1097/GRF.0000000000000162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26630074
- Islam, M., Segars, J., Castellucci, M., & Ciarmela, P. (2017). Dietary phytochemicals for possible preventive and therapeutic option of uterine fibroids: Signaling pathways as target. Pharmacological Reports, 69(1): 57–70. doi: 10.1016/j.pharep.2016.10.013. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1734114016302973
- Memtsa, M., & Homer, H. (2012). Complications associated with uterine artery embolisation for fibroids. Obstetrics and Gynecology International, 2012; 2012:290542. doi: 10.1155/2012/290542. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ogi/2012/290542/