In 2019, we now have the technology and tools that allow us to see a detailed map of the body without ever touching a scalpel. Now, patients have the option of choosing non-surgical treatments that boast numerous benefits over invasive surgeries. By utilizing these advanced technologies, doctors are able to thread catheters throughout the body to treat a variety of conditions and diseases. But how do doctors utilize these minimally invasive techniques to treat conditions like uterine fibroids? Understanding the below tools opens up a new world of safe, effective ways to treat these benign, uterine tumors.

What is a Cath Lab?

A catheterization laboratory also known as a cath lab is an examination room located within a clinic that has advanced diagnostic imaging equipment which is used to see into the arteries during treatment.

Our interventional radiologists (IR) utilize minimally invasive techniques in conjunction with ultrasounds and fluoroscopies to locate the uterine fibroids. Once located, the IR doctors can use the body’s natural pathways, the arteries, to treat the fibroids with non-surgical procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).

Fluoroscopy

Fluoroscopy is a large device with a movable arm that is typically located in a cathlab. This type of medical imaging shows a continuous, live X-ray on a monitor screen. During a Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure, the fluoroscopy passes an X-ray beam through the body focusing on the arteries leading to the uterus. The image is then transmitted to the monitor so the movement of the catheter through the arteries, as well as the contrast agent also known as “X-ray dye”, which can be seen through the body.

Fluoroscopy can be used before and during the Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure. During the scan, the patient lies on an open examination table with the fluoroscopy positioned next to the table. The arm is then moved above the body. Unlike MRIs and CAT scans, your body is not encompassed and you do not feel enclosed.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. Ultrasounds are typically used in diagnosing a pregnancy, because no radiation is used. Ultrasound scans are a safe way to diagnose fibroids, because they use sound waves or echoes to make an image. The sonographer applies a small amount of gel which acts as a conductive medium. Then, they use a hand-held device, also known as a transducer, which is placed on the patient’s skin. When the transducer is rubbed across the skin, an image is produced, which enables the sonographer or interventional radiologist to take pictures of the inside of the uterus.

Higher frequencies provide better quality images but are more readily absorbed by the skin and other tissue. Lower frequencies penetrate deeper, but the image quality is inferior. For diagnostic purposes, ultrasounds are typically calibrated at between 2 t0 18 megahertz (MHz).

An ultrasound’s sound waves easily travel throughout soft tissue and fluids. Ultrasounds can detect abnormal objects or tumors when the sound waves bounce off these denser surfaces. When a sound wave echos off a uterine fibroid, a darker picture is produced and you can view them on the screen. Sonographers perform ultrasound scans, which are then interpreted by an interventional radiologist which will determine the next steps and if treatment is needed.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Is an exam that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to make detailed pictures inside your body. When you go for an MRI scan, you lie face-up on a table that is slowly inserted into a large cylinder-like machine. The doctor then watches a screen inside a separate room while the MRI scan is being completed.

An MRI scan utilizes safe, radiofrequency pulses that re-align hydrogen atoms that naturally exist within the body. As the hydrogen atoms return to their usual alignment, they emit different amounts of energy depending on the type of body tissue they are in. The MRI captures this energy and creates a picture of the tissues scanned based on this information.

The magnetic field is produced by passing an electric current through wire coils in most MRI units. Other coils, located in the machine send and receive radio waves, producing signals that are detected by the coils. It’s important to note that the electric current does not come in contact with the patient.

A computer then processes the signals and generates a series of images. The images can then be studied from different angles by the interventional radiologist.

Your doctor may recommend an MRI scan if the ultrasound pictures do not show a detailed-enough picture. Most fibroids can be located with an ultrasound; however, your doctor may want an MRI picture before treatment to make an accurate diagnosis.

The Benefits of Utilizing Minimally Invasive Technologies

  • Recover rapidly in the comfort of your own home – Outpatient care allows you to return home immediately following your treatment. Due to the fact that there is no stitches used, recovery is faster than surgical procedures.
  • Maintain the ability to support your family – Many patients have young children that require continued supervision and care. Other patients may have a spouse that works and aren’t able to schedule or pay for a full-time nanny. Outpatient programs offer freedom and flexibility, when needed.
  • Outpatient care costs less – The cost of outpatient recovery is significantly less expensive than recovery in the hospital. This is often the primary reason that people choose outpatient programs.
  • Rooted in the communities we serve – Our doctors and staff live and work in the communities they serve. We’re not a big hospital, so we are able to get to know the communities on a personal level.
  • Less risk of infection and surgical complication – Visiting hospitals come with a higher risk of contracting bacteria and germs. Minimally invasive procedures like Uterine Fibroid Embolization utilize the body’s natural pathways, the arteries, without the use of surgery.
  • Able to preserve your uterus and its functions – Outpatient Uterine Fibroid Embolization does not remove the uterus like a hysterectomy does. UFE does not interfere with hormones and retains the woman’s fertility.
  • No scarring, stitches, or general anesthesia – Unlike surgical procedures, outpatient UFE does not require stitches or general anesthesia. Due to its minimally invasive approach, there is no scarring except for a small knick in the arm or groin.
  • High success rate – UFE is highly effective at eliminating fibroid symptoms like heavy bleeding, bleeding between cycles, long periods lasting over 10 days, frequent urination, protruding abdomen, and pelvic pain.

If you’re interested in learning more about non-surgical, outpatient fibroid treatment, explore our website and blog for more information. To schedule an appointment, call 855-615-2555 or use our schedule online option for instant insurance verification.