In the past, uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) was believed to only be safe and effective in treating small to medium fibroids. Yet, new research has shown that this non-invasive treatment option could provide hope for women with large fibroids as well.
“Previous thinking was that bigger fibroids often times resulted in internal necrosis (cell and tissue death), which implies that these fibroids have outgrown their blood supply,” explained Dr. Linda Anne Hughes, an interventional radiologist at North Broward Radiologists in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Therefore doing an embolization, which cuts off blood supply to the fibroids, wouldn’t be as effective.”
But current data is now disputing such theories. A study published earlier this year in Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology1 compared the effectiveness of UFE in women with small fibroids less than 10 cm in diameter to women with large fibroids greater than 10 cm in diameter. The authors of the study found there were no significant differences in reported quality-of-life scores or in health complication rates following the procedure.
And these results aren’t unusual for UFE. “I’ve had fairly good experiences with treating larger fibroids,” Dr. Hughes told Ask4UFE. “On one extreme, the largest solitary fibroid I embolized was 20 cm. It only shrunk to 14 cm, which is still big, but clinically the patient was extremely satisfied and happy with the outcome.”
Embolizing large fibroids can dramatically improve symptoms, but every woman is different. “It depends on the individual and what the symptoms are,” Dr. Hughes continued. “Our definition of success is that we alleviate symptoms to the extent that patients don’t seek or desire further treatment.”
According to Dr. Hughes, fibroid relief by UFE belongs to a triad of components. Cutting off blood supply to the fibroid can ease abnormal bleeding; cause the fibroid to shrink—ideally preventing further growth; and soften it to relieve pressure symptoms. “The fibroid will still be there,” Dr. Hughes added. “But if it’s smaller and softer, a lot of women experience adequate relief.”
However, no matter the effectiveness of the UFE procedure itself, Dr. Hughes attributes patient success to another vital piece of the care management plan. What does she encourage?
Active collaboration amongst patients and healthcare providers.
“What’s important is a team approach in terms of the interventional radiologist, the patient, and the gynecologist being involved in the care,” Dr. Hughes stressed. “This is what allows us to push the envelope with regard to size, with regard to fertility, and in terms of reaching out and being able to treat more patients.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a Freelance Writer and Photographer, 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 with her local animal shelter.
ABOUT THE DOCTOR Linda Anne Hughes is an interventional radiologist at North Broward Radiologists in Fort Lauderdale, FL. American Board Certified in Radiology, Dr. Hughes specializes in applying cutting-edge Vascular and Interventional Radiology technologies, thereby offering the highest standard of care in a number of areas including UFE. By coauthoring several publications in Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology, Dr. Hughes strives to educate physicians and patients about the latest minimally invasive procedures.
- Bérczi V, Valcseva E, Kozics D, Kalina I, Kaposi P, Sziller P, Várbíró S, Botos EM. Safety and effectiveness of UFE in fibroids larger than 10 cm. Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 2015 Oct; 38(5): 1152-1156.