BIDMC Interventional Radiology Outpatient Procedure Effectively Treats Fibroids

BIDMC Contributor

APRIL 07, 2021

Flavia O.Like thousands of women, Flavia O., 42, of Boston, Mass., was suffering from fibroids. Also known as smooth muscle tumors of the uterus, fibroids are the most common benign uterine tumors in women. Some studies suggest that up to 75% of all women may have fibroids, with many experiencing symptoms ranging from prolonged bleeding to bloating, sharp pains, and trouble going to the bathroom.

In Flavia’s case, she experienced painful pelvic pressure and a swollen uterus that made her appear three to four months pregnant at times. She reached a point where she felt something had to be done so she could live a life without the pain and discomfort of fibroids, but she was reluctant to undergo surgery.

“I had to do some personal discovery about what I wanted to do next,” Flavia explained. “After speaking with several gynecologists, I realized I didn’t want to have a hysterectomy or fibroid removal surgery. Open surgery wasn’t the path I wanted for myself.”

In conducting her own research for alternative options in 2020, she came across information on uterine artery embolization (UAE, also referred to as uterine fibroid embolization or UFE), which is a minimally invasive treatment with effective techniques to treat fibroids without open surgery. Having not heard of UAE until that point, she searched for radiologists and experts in the area. A nurse friend recommended Dr. Julie Bulman and the Interventional Radiology team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

‘I Was Marveled by the Science and Technology’

Through a pin-size hole in the wrist or groin, an interventional radiologist specially trained in the procedure, such as Dr. Julie Bulman, inserts a small catheter into the artery supplying the fibroids to reduce blood flow and shrink them. Patients are under conscious sedation during the procedure, which blocks their pain and allows them to remain comfortably awake without the risk of general anesthesia.

“The team of nurses were wonderful! I felt 100% comfortable with Dr. Bulman, who is very compassionate and transparent about the procedure and what to expect, and I was marveled by the science and technology,” Flavia said.

Embolization is a safe and highly effective technique that has been used by interventional radiologists for years to treat conditions from tumors to bleeding.

“Women can obtain near-complete relief of their bleeding or ‘bulk symptoms’ after uterine artery embolization and preserve their uterus,” Bulman said. “It’s amazing to see a patient go home the same day and recover in the comfort of her own home rather than be in the hospital for an extended recovery after hysterectomy.”

‘It Brought Me Great Joy’

UAE has been offered for more than 20 years and over 90% of treated women are satisfied with their results after the procedure. Quality of life measures have been shown to substantially improve for both UAE and surgery; however, recovery is faster after embolization, as patients, on average, are back to normal activity in less than two weeks.

Flavia’s UAE was a success, and she returned home that same day. After a few days of rest, she reported feeling better and better; within the first few weeks, her fibroids were noticeably shrinking with significantly less pressure and bloating.

“I focused on what I could control, which was researching the procedure and finding a doctor I could trust. It brought me great joy finding a path I was comfortable with,” Flavia said. “Medicine has come such a long way and more women need to know about this alternative procedure. If women have fibroids and want to have them removed, UAE/UFE is an optimal option!”

BIDMC's Interventional Radiology team is currently seeing new patients. To schedule a consultation, email BIDMC Interventional Radiology or call 617-754-2523.

About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,000 physicians and 35,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.