Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital

New Procedure Offers Relief From Uterine Fibroids

Photograph: Dr. Nassim Akle

Uterine fibroids, a common condition affecting over 25 million American women, can produce a range of painful and potentially embarrassing symptoms. But a new, minimally invasive procedure offered at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital offers relief for women without a lengthy recovery period.

Uterine fibroids are muscular tumors of the uterus that are almost always benign, or non-cancerous. While the exact cause of their formation is not known, researchers point to genetics and hormonal factors as possible culprits. Uterine fibroids can produce symptoms such as heavy, prolonged menstrual periods, spotting or bleeding between menstrual periods, increased menstrual cramping, pain in the pelvic region, back, sides or legs, and may cause frequent urination, abdominal bloating or constipation.

The procedure is a valid alternative to traditional treatment options, including medications to control symptoms, hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus and cervix, or myomectomy (a surgical procedure that removes the fibroids without removing the uterus), but Dr. Nassim Akle, interventional radiologist at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital, says the uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) procedure offers several advantages over traditional treatment options.

“UFE is a less invasive approach that is designed to preserve the uterus and shrink the fibroids,” Akle said. “It works by blocking the flow of blood to the fibroids, which deprives them of the oxygen and nutrients they need to grow.”

Akle says the procedure involves the insertion of a catheter into the groin area in order to access the blood vessels that surround the fibroids. Microspheres—tiny particles used to block blood flow through an artery—are then inserted through the catheter to block the blood flow; resulting in the shrinkage of the fibroids.

“This minimally invasive procedure can often be performed as an outpatient procedure and results in shorter hospital stays and a faster return to an active lifestyle than hysterectomy or myomectomy,” Akle said.

African American women are two to three times more likely to develop fibroids than white, Asian or Hispanic women. The condition is more prevalent in older women, with 20 to 40 percent of women 35 or older developing fibroids.

Uterine fibroids are generally diagnosed during a pelvic exam by your gynecologist or primary care physician, who can not only verify the presence of fibroids, but also determine their precise location and their size.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of uterine fibroids, call 713-441-0178 or visit houstonmethodist.org/sanjacinto to schedule an exam with a Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital radiologist.

About Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital

Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital has provided Baytown and East Houston with quality medical care since opening its doors in 1948. The hospital has grown throughout the years with the community, providing comprehensive care at all stages of life. As a health care leader, the hospital is proud to have a fully integrated residency program focused on educating and inspiring future practitioners. Today, Houston Methodist San Jacinto provides some of the most advanced and innovative procedures while never losing focus on compassionate and patient-centered care. Houstonmethodist.org/sanjacinto.