Treatment for uterine fibroids has for long been associated with surgery, painting a painful and long recovery periods. But technological developments in the medical field across the globe have broken new ground and given rise to sophisticated non-invasive treatment for fibroids.
These developments in healthcare technology have given birth to Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) a less invasive, safe and effective treatment for fibroids. UFE is a global treatment of the fibroids regardless of size, number, or location.
It is a painless, image-guided procedure and has been performed to many patients locally at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUH). The main benefits for women are that the “cut” is only 2mm and they can return to work within a week of the procedure.
Fibroids are noncancerous, abnormal growths that develop in, or on a woman’s uterus during their reproductive years. Research indicates about 80 percent of women develop fibroids by the time they get to the age of 50. African women compared to Caucasian are likely to be diagnosed with these tumours. It is unclear what causes them.
Women suffer from different types of fibroids as this is diagnosed through the location in the uterus. For an accurate finding as to which type of fibroid a woman is suffering from, a patient needs to see a gynecologist and get her a pelvis examined. This checkup is used to identify the condition, size, and shape of a patient’s uterus. Other tests may include ultrasound and MRI for conclusive results. Therefore, treatment is administered based on patient’s age, size of the growths and overall health. UFE is carried out by an interventional radiologist who inserts a tiny tube a 2mm ‘cut’ at the top of the leg or in the wrist, manoeuvering it through the uterine artery, and injecting tiny particles into the arteries that supply blood to the uterus and fibroids.
The particles ultimately block the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to die and shrink.
It is safe for women who want to conceive after undergoing a UFE procedure though it is advised to wait for between six to twelve months before attempting to conceive.
Ravjit Sagoo is Interventional Radiologist and Dr Timona Obura is Obstetrician Gynaecologist and Laparoscopic Surgeon at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.