July 16, 2019 by Peter B. Laird
Uterine Fibroids: More Advanced Treatment Options
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus, often affecting women during their childbearing years.
Fibroids can be smaller than a seed or as large as a grapefruit. They are not life-threatening, but they can be accompanied by serious problems including miscarriage.
(Watch Now. The Baptist Health News Team hears from interventional radiologist Adam Geronemus, M.D., associate medical director of the Fibroid Center at South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women & Infants, and patient Katherine Garzon, about her uterine fibroid treatment. )
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Though many women experience no symptoms, many others develop life-disrupting conditions that may include:
- Heavy, prolonged or irregular menstrual periods
- Severe menstrual cramps
- Abdominal swelling
- Pain or pressure in the hips, pelvis or legs
- Frequent urination
- Pregnancy and fertility complications
“My advice to women suffering from uterine fibroids is to seek help and get all the options,” says interventional radiologist Adam Geronemus, M.D., associate medical director of the Fibroid Center at South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women & Infants. “Each patient of the Fibroid Center receives a consultation tailored to her specific needs. Multiple specialists are in the same room at the same time giving the patient all the possible treatment options.”
Treatments for fibroids have advanced significantly from the days when women were routinely told that a hysterectomy was their only choice. Now options range from hormone treatment, to uterine fibroid embolization, endometrial ablation, laparoscopic or robotic myomectomy and laparoscopic or robotic hysterectomy.
“One of the most important things when we’re talking with young women of childbearing age is their desire for future fertility,” says Dr. Geronemus. “There are what we call fertility sparing procedures that don’t immediately decrease the rate of future fertility to zero.”
Katherine Garzon’s gynecologist referred her to the Fibroid Center in 2017. “I had many fibroids and some of them were large,” she says, “I wanted to take care of them but my principle worry was my fertility afterwards.”
According to Dr. Geronemus, Mrs. Garzon was a good candidate for uterine fibroid embolization. In this minimally-invasive procedure, an interventional radiologist threads a thin tube called a catheter into the uterine artery and injects small particles into the blood vessels that supply blood to the fibroids. Once the blood supply is cut off, the fibroids shrink over time and die.
“Fibroids shrink at different rates in different patients. Hers shrank very rapidly. She had a decrease in volume by 50% at six months post-procedure,” reports Dr. Geronemus.
About a year after the procedure, Mrs. Garzon learned she was pregnant and in October of 2018 she and her husband were thrilled to welcome a healthy baby boy.
Dr. Geronemus says UFE is one of the most rewarding procedures he does. “Whether it’s the heavy menstrual periods that are causing so much pain and such heavy bleeding that they can’t leave the house, or anemia that makes them tired — if we could break any of those cycles and give people back their normal life, it’s special and it’s very fulfilling.”