February 2, 2006

Procedure that Shrinks Fibroids Speeds Recovery

By David Douglas

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For the treatment of uterine fibroids, a minimally invasive procedure called uterine artery embolization (UAE) that shrinks fibroids by cutting off their blood supply is as effective as removing fibroids with an operation called myomectomy, a study confirms. But UAE offers the advantages of a speedier and less eventful recovery, the study shows.

"As the evidence builds demonstrating uterine artery embolization's comparable efficacy to hysterectomy and myomectomy and superior safety, I hope that more physicians will view the procedure more favorably, resulting in a decrease in major surgeries in favor of a minimally invasive technique," Dr. Scott C. Goodwin told Reuters Health.

Uterine fibroids can cause excessive menstrual bleedings, pelvic pain, and frequent urination. The benign tumors occur in about 25 percent of all women and are the leading cause of hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus, in the US.

For their study, Goodwin, of the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System and colleagues at 16 US centers assigned a group of women with uterine fibroids to UAE or myomectomy based on "a best treatment decision made by the patient and her physician according to the standard of care at each site."

In all, 149 patients received UAE and 60 underwent myomectomy. All patients were followed for 6 months and the UAE patients were also evaluated at 1 year.

Following treatment, both groups experienced significant improvement in overall quality of life and menstrual bleeding.

However, UAE patients stayed in the hospital an average of only 1 day versus 2.5 days in myomectomy patients. UAE patients resumed normal activities and returned to work significantly sooner than myomectomy patients.

In addition, at least one adverse event was seen in 40 percent of the myomectomy patients compared with just 22 percent of the UAE group.

SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility January 2006.