Is a hysterectomy the only option for treating fibroids?

Fibroids are benign tumors that grow in or on the uterus. They can cause symptoms like heavy periods, pain, and bleeding between menstrual periods. If a fibroid is large and presses against other organs, it can cause problems with pregnancy, bladder function and bowel movements. In the past, a hysterectomy may have been the only option for many women. Today, there are other treatment options for fibroids that do not involve surgery.

woman talking to doctor about hysterectomy

What is a hysterectomy? 

A hysterectomy is a surgery that involves removing the uterus. It’s a procedure used to treat some medical conditions, such as fibroids or endometriosis. Removing the uterus removes the abnormal growth in or on the uterus and fallopian tubes. After a hysterectomy, women are unable to have children, but they still have their ovaries. Some women may still have periods after the surgery because their fallopian tubes can stay connected to the ovaries which continue to release eggs and produce hormones.

Recovery from a hysterectomy depends on what type of hysterectomy is performed and the location of the growths. The recovery time generally takes about one to two weeks. Still, it can last up to four weeks the approach for the surgery (transvaginal, laparascopic, or open) and whether any scar tissue develops in surrounding areas. Some women are able to return to work within two weeks, but others may need more time off from work.

There are minimally invasive fibroid treatment alternatives to hysterectomy. One is the UFE. 

Today, there are other minimally invasive options that can treat fibroids without removing your uterus.

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) involves the insertion of a catheter through a blood vessel in your wrist or groin. The catheter is moved through your arteries until the tip is in the blood vessels that supply blood to the fibroid. A small amount of fluid containing small beads is then injected. These beads, called embolic media, block the blood supply to the fibroid, causing it to shrink and die. If you have more than one fibroid, the catheter can be moved through your blood vessels to treat all of the fibroids during a single procedure. The procedure is safe and can be performed on an outpatient basis, with minimal risks or side effects. Real-time imaging with X-rays is used to make sure  that all fibroids have been treated before you leave the procedure room.

For most women with uterine fibroids who are considering the UFE as a treatment option, this alternative preserves reproductive capacity for those who want to become pregnant or maintain fertility.

Benefits of Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure that can be performed in an outpatient setting. It is often less painful than a hysterectomy and has a shorter recovery time.

Unlike a hysterectomy, the uterus remains intact after UFE. This means that you will still have your menstrual cycle and can get pregnant in the future if you desire it. For most women, the menstrual cycle is more normal – shorter in duration and with less heavy bleeding and pain.

An Alternative to Hysterectomy

It is true that for some women, a hysterectomy is the only option for treating fibroids. But for others, there are less invasive treatments, such as the UFE, that are available and may be considered as alternatives to hysterectomy.

Questions to ask your doctor about alternatives to a hysterectomy: 

  • What are the risks of the procedure?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • What are the possible side effects, and how soon can I return to work, my other activities, and sex after surgery?
  • How much will it cost? Which insurance company will cover my procedure, if any (and is there a limit on how much they’ll cover)?
  • What other options do I have for treating fibroids (hysterectomy being one of them), and which one would be best for me personally?

Reach out 

We hope this post has helped you to understand the different options available for treating fibroids. If you have any questions or concerns, please make sure to speak with your doctor about them before making any decisions about treatment.

Women who cannot or do not want to undergo major surgery may be candidates for UFE. Although it is not always the case, women who may want to become pregnant in the future will want to choose UFE over a hysterectomy to maintain this possibility. Some women choose UFE when possible because they need a faster return to work or other activities and the shorter recovery time allows them to be back at work sooner.

We have been providing the Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure (UFE) for women in Georgia for years. Reach out to us today for a consultation to see if the UFE is right for you.