Uterine Fibroids now treatable through minimally-invasive procedure conducted through the wrist

Fibroid Embolisation offers alternative to hysterectomy for fibroid treatment in Southern Africa

Uterine Fibroids now treatable through minimally-invasive procedure conducted through the wrist
Uterine Fibroids now treatable through minimally-invasive procedure conducted through the wrist

Uterine fibroids are benign growths that affect a large percentage of women who are of reproductive age. The growths are formed from uterine tissue and vary greatly in size. Many women are unaware they have fibroids as not all fibroids cause symptoms. In some cases women experience a range of symptoms which adversely affect their quality of life. Research into the cause of fibroids remains inconclusive though the level of oestrogen present in the body is believed to be influential in cell growth in the uterus.

Commonly reported symptoms include excessively long menstrual bleeding, painful sex and pain in the pelvis and back. Some women have even experienced bloating in the pelvic area as a result of large fibroids. Fibroid sufferers are usually offered surgical methods for removal which include a myomectomy (removal of fibroids while keeping the uterus intact) or a hysterectomy which involves the complete removal of the womb. Myomectomy treatment does not prevent recurrence whilst a hysterectomy, though effective, has many complications. For women who are still hoping to have children, a hysterectomy is not a viable option. Breakthroughs in interventional radiology have led to the rise of artery embolisation which is a minimally invasive, targeted method of treating conditions such as fibroids. The treatment is only offered at a few hospitals as it is still a relatively new procedure and very few medical practitioners are equipped to administer it.

Fibroid embolisation is a procedure which blocks the arteries which feed the fibroid’s growth. The treatment is conducted by making a tiny incision in the wrist or groin of the patient, through which a catheter is fed. Using x-ray technology the artery that is nourishing the fibroid is located and then blocked with inactive particles. These particles are usually polyvinyl alcohol or cis acryl gelatine which provide a safe blockage in the artery, inhiniting blood flow to the fibroid. The fibroid is then starved and begins to shrink, eventually disappearing. Multiple blockages can be safely performed to treat multiple fibroids. Fibroid embolisation takes around 40 minutes and is mostly performed under local sedation. The patient is awake, but drowsy and unable to feel in the area of the incision. The size or location of the fibroid may impact the time required for embolisation.

After the treatment patients often report a dull, aching pain which is usually controlled through the use of painkillers. No stitching is required and the patient is left with no scarring on the body. In rare cases an infection may occur which is treatable with antibiotics.

This revolutionary treatment is offered through the Fibroid Care initiative, founded and led by intervention radiologist Dr Andrew Lawson who has several years of experience in the field both locally and abroad. Fibroid Care operates in sub-saharan Africa providing fibroid symbolization to patients from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Kenya.