BIDMC Interventional Radiology Technique Treats Fibroids, Restores Quality of Life

BIDMC Contributor

JANUARY 09, 2023

Nicole and Scout
Nicole hiking with her dog Scout

From playing flag football and softball, to hiking with her dog on off-leash trails north of Boston, to spending time with her wife and daughter, Nicole, 41, loves to stay active.

That’s why, when she began experiencing severe physical pain, she sought answers.

“It was destroying my quality of life,” Nicole said, adding that her symptoms had included heavy uterine bleeding, chronic exhaustion, and anemia that landed her in the emergency room.

Like thousands of women, she was diagnosed with uterine 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 percent of all women may have fibroids, with many experiencing symptoms ranging from prolonged bleeding to bloating, sharp pains, and trouble going to the bathroom.

Exploring a Different Path

Nicole underwent hormonal therapy, but it didn’t offer significant relief. She was also recommended for a full hysterectomy, but decided to keep researching her options. “I didn’t want to have something removed from my body,” she explained.

With personal ties to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), she became a patient of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, where her doctor recommended a different kind of treatment offered by the Division of Interventional Radiology.

That’s when Nicole learned about uterine artery embolization (UAE, also referred to as uterine fibroid embolization or UFE), which is a minimally invasive procedure with proven effects to treat fibroids without open surgery.

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.

‘Dr. Bulman Changed Everything for Me’

From her initial virtual consult with Dr. Bulman, to her MRI appointment and UAE treatment this past summer, everything moved very quickly for Nicole. In fact, after her same-day outpatient procedure, she recovered at home and was back on the trails 10 days later.

“Nicole’s story is a common one in the world of Women’s Health,” Bulman said. “Being able to offer all the available treatments for symptomatic fibroids empowers women to choose the best option for them. Uterine artery embolization provides an outpatient procedure with a rapid recovery for women who are eligible, and allows uterine preservation.”

Embolization is a safe and highly effective technique that has been used by interventional radiologists for years to treat conditions from tumors to bleeding. UAE in particular has been offered for more than 20 years and over 90 percent 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 two weeks.

“I would have this procedure over and over again and recommend it to anyone who needs it,” Nicole said. “Dr. Bulman changed everything for me.”

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 leading academic medical center, where extraordinary care is supported by high-quality education and research. BIDMC is a teaching 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 4,700 physicians and 39,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.