Women who suffer from painful uterine fibroids now have a new, minimally
invasive treatment option that offers relief without surgery, sameday
recovery and fewer complications compared to traditional approaches —
all performed through the wrist.
St. Joseph Hospital is the only hospital in Orange County, California to offer transradial
uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a novel technique in which doctors
treat fibroids through an incision no bigger than a grain of rice in the
patient’s left wrist. The treatment delivers microscopic particles
that block the blood vessels feeding the fibroid, causing it to shrink
and break down.
The treatment is a major advance over traditional UFE, which required entry
through the femoral artery in the groin. “The transradial approach
is a game-changer in the treatment of uterine fibroids,” said
Christopher Loh, MD, board-certified interventional radiologist at St. Joseph Hospital.
“Patients experience less pain compared to the femoral approach,
they are able to get up and walk around within an hour, and can return
to normal physical activity, including exercise, the next day.”
Guided by high definition X-ray imaging, the doctor threads a slender tube
through the wrist toward the uterine artery and releases the tiny particles,
each smaller than a grain of sand. The tube is withdrawn and a bandage
applied to the patient’s wrist. No general anesthesia is needed,
just light sedation for patient comfort.
Like traditional UFE, the transradial approach has a success rate “upwards
of 95 percent,” according to Dr. Loh. And since the radial artery
is far smaller than the femoral artery (one-fourth the size), the risk
of bleeding complications is also much lower. “From a risk perspective,
as well as a patient comfort perspective, this technique is a huge advantage.
Although both approaches involve a small incision, many women prefer the
transradial approach through the wrist rather than the femoral approach
through the groin.”
As many as 80 percent of American women are affected by fibroids —
noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus. Women can have one fibroid
or many, as small as a pea or as large as a melon. Although treatment
is not always necessary, some women experience debilitating symptoms,
including heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and fertility problems.
Depending on their location, fibroids can also press on the bladder, causing
What causes fibroids is still unclear, but risk factors include age and
family history. In fact, fibroids are most common among women in their
30s and 40s, prior to menopause. Obesity and a diet high in red meat are
also linked with higher occurrence of fibroids, and African-American women
are at higher risk than women of other ethnicities.
For decades, hysterectomy was the only treatment option for painful fibroids.
But thanks to medical advancements, women suffering from fibroid symptoms
now have a wider range of options, according to Dr. Loh. “It’s
a good idea to consult with an interventional radiologist when seeking
treatment for fibroids,” he said. “Women should be aware of
all their options.”
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