Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that attach themselves to the uterine wall. Uterine fibroids may vary in size from microscopic fibroids to fibroids that occupy the entire uterine cavity. Uterine fibroids may appear as one or many. They often grow and enlarge over time and extend beyond the uterine cavity.
Symptoms of uterine fibroids are painful menstrual cycles and pelvic cramps. There may be abdominal fulness and increased urine frequency. In some women, there may no apparent symptoms to indicate uterine fibroids. Women suffering from uterine fibroids may notice backache and leg pain. There is heavy menstrual bleeding. The symptoms depend on the location of the uterine fibroids.
Fibroids have been associated with changing levels of estrogen hormones. With menopause, uterine fibroids shrink on account of the reduced levels of estrogen. A doctor will conduct a pelvic examination to detect fibroids in the uterus. Ultrasound helps in better visualization of the uterine cavity. Hysterosalpingography involves use of dye to observe the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes.
Most often uterine fibroids are left untreated. If the fibroids are growing too rapidly or causing abnormal bleeding, then suitable treatment will need to be adopted. In some cases, uterine fibroids affect fertility. Treatment for uterine fibroids depends on the age of the woman and severity of symptoms. Surgical options to treat uterine fibroids involve myomectomy (removal of fibroids leaving uterus intact). A hysterectomy is performed in post-menopausal women. Uterine artery embolization (UAE)involves using imaging techniques to locate and block the blood vessels that feed the fibroids. Sometimes medication is prescribed to lower estrogen levels. But they have disturbing side-effects.
A sub-specialty of radiology, Interventional radiology - IR has contributed significantly to medical developments in recent years. Patients are diagnosed and treated using minimally invasive imaging techniques such as X-ray, MRI and ultrasound for guidance. In addition to diagnosis, new treatment options are offered by techniques in Interventional radiology (also known as Surgical Radiology)- patients are treated with lesser risk and shorter hospital stays.
The advantage of IR procedures is that they can be used in almost every organ system - be it abdomen, central nervous system, chest, heart and vascular, musculoskeletal, genito-urinary and other organs and soft tissues.
Patient evaluation and management are provided by Interventional radiologists, who are doctors trained in radiology and in minimally invasive procedures, skilled in interpreting X rays, ultrasounds and CT and other imaging techniques. While surgery was the only available option for a number of conditions a few years back, these days the expertise of Interventional radiologists with imaging technique enables them to guide small catheters, that are only a few millimeters in diameter and guide wires through blood vessels or other organ pathways to treat many conditions. Diseases and conditions are diagnosed and treated percutaneously with minimally invasive procedures.
Benefits and uses of Interventional radiology
This is an imaging technique using cutting-edge equipment for accurate diagnosis and treatment, a minimally invasive procedure through a small nick in the skin, minimizing the patient's discomfort and recovery time. These days, there is hardly any area in hospital medicine where IR has not impacted patient management.
These procedures require only local anesthesia, and short stays at the hospital. Sick patients who are unfit to undergo surgery can also undergo these techniques. Recovery post IR procedure is less painful than when the patient undergoes surgical procedures.
These image guided medical procedures use CT, MRI, fluoroscopy and ultrasound to view targeted areas. This makes the vessels clearly visible under imaging. A thin catheter is used to deliver the contrast material into a particular blood vessel and shows the inside of the vessel allowing the radiologist to locate blockages. Some examples of interventional radiology procedures include:
Using Interventional radiology
By minimizing the physical trauma to the patient, non-surgical interventions also reduce infection rates and recovery time and shorten hospital stays.
Dilation and Curettage
Dilation and curettage or D&C is a procedure that involves widening of the cervix and removing of the uterine lining and contents by scraping and scooping. Dilation and curettage is used as a diagnostic procedure for fibroids or uterine cancer and often as an abortion procedure during the first trimester. A hysteroscope is used to look inside the womb for abnormalities such as fibroids or polyps. D&C is also done when there is endometrial abnormality or menstrual bleeding irregularity. D&C is done under anesthesia. The procedure doesn't take much time but the woman needs to rest for the day. A D&C is not done on women who have an infection of the uterus or fallopian tubes.
Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: March 21, 2019