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Uterine Fibroids are benign growths that occur within the muscle walls of the uterus. Though they are non-cancerous, fibroids which grow large enough can cause heavy, prolonged monthly bleeding, pain, and pressure on other internal organs, leading to frequent urination, constipation, or an enlarged abdomen. Up to 40 percent of women over the age of 35 have uterine fibroids. African American women are at a higher risk for fibroids, as are women with a family history of the disease.
Uterine fibroids grow within or on the uterine wall, and range in size from extremely small to the size of a small cantaloupe. There are typically three kinds of fibroids: Subserosal fibroids grow along the outer wall of the uterus, causing pressure and discomfort because of their size. Subserosal fibroids do not typically affect menstruation. Intramural fibroids are the most common type. This type of fibroid grows within the uterine wall, causing the uterus itself to expand. This expansion causes pelvic pressure, pain and a heavy monthly bleeding. Submucosal fibroids grow below the lining of the uterine cavity. Submucosal fibroids can cause heavy and prolonged periods.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure which disrupts the flow of blood to the fibroid, causing it to shrink. The procedure is performed by an interventional radiologist who uses a small catheter, inserted through an artery in the thigh, to inject tiny particles into the uterine blood vessels. These particles remain in the vessel permanently to prevent the fibrous growth from reoccurring.
UFE is an effective, non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy. The procedure takes less than an hour to perform, and requires only an overnight hospital stay. Most patients can return to work and normal activity in less than two weeks after undergoing UFE.