Radiology procedure eases pain of uterine fibroids without adversely affecting fertility

Interventional radiology procedures are effective in treating uterine fibroids in patients who have symptoms of the disease without causing infertility or premature menopause, a new study shows.

Uterine fibroids are nourished by blood, says Hyun S. “Kevin” Kim, MD, of Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore and the lead author of the study. “We found that if we block the uterine and ovarian arteries feeding the fibroid, the patients symptoms are relieved,” he says. The arteries are blocked (embolized) using special particles or spheres of varying size, notes Dr. Kim. “Larger particles were used to stop the flow of blood. When calibrated spheres were used, there was a significant reduction in the flow of blood,” he adds.

In the study, ovarian artery embolization and uterine artery embolization was performed on six patients during the initial procedure. Both procedures were done on these patients because the arteries were connected, that is, blood was flowing from one artery to the other. Three other patients were treated by ovarian artery embolization for residual fibroids after the initial procedure, says Dr. Kim. One patient underwent ovarian artery emobolization for residual bulky fibroids on both ovaries, he adds.

“Symptomatic improvement was seen in all nine patients,” he says. When blood flow is cut off to an organ, there is concern that the organ will die; however, no “premature ovarian failure was detected,” says Dr. Kim. Some patients have been followed for up to a year, and all patients have reported normal menstrual periods. The patients have experienced no significant hormonal changes, he adds.

Dr. Kim will present his study on May 5 during the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in San Diego.

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