Fibroid Ablation Procedures
If you’re living with uterine fibroids, you may have experienced heavy periods, difficulty conceiving, or other symptoms characteristic of this condition. Add the anxiety or fear that can sometimes accompany uterine fibroid treatment options, and you’re undoubtedly searching for the procedure that makes you most comfortable. On this page, you can learn more about fibroid ablation, which is an alternative to hysterectomy.
What Is Fibroid Ablation?
Fibroid ablation or uterine fibroid ablation is a procedure used to destroy abnormal fibroid tissue in the uterus. Instead of cutting fibroids from the uterus or removing the uterus altogether, special instruments inserted through your cervix or through tiny incisions in your abdomen target symptomatic fibroids with extreme heat or cold, electrical current, or lasers. These methods soften, weaken, break up, or shrink fibroids in an attempt to eliminate symptoms.
While the fibroid ablation methods discussed here don’t require open surgery, they’re still performed under general anesthesia. There’s also a risk that fibroids will regrow. Even so, for women who want to keep their uterus, ablation can help provide relief from fibroid symptoms.
Types of Ablation Used for Fibroids
Endometrial ablation is used to destroy the layer of tissue that makes up the endometrium, or the thin lining of the uterus. It’s performed with small tools inserted into your cervix that deliver either electricity, heated fluids, high-energy radio waves, freezing temperatures (cryoablation), or microwaves. Endometrial ablation helps reduce heavy bleeding caused by uterine fibroids and can remove some small fibroids, but it cannot eliminate large fibroids or those growing outside of the uterine lining.
Laparoscopic Radiofrequency Ablation
This fibroid ablation procedure uses laparoscopy and radiofrequency heat to shrink individual uterine fibroids without harming healthy tissue. Laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation is performed by a surgeon who begins by making two small incisions on your abdomen. A thin fiber-optic tube that carries a light and camera is inserted into one of the incisions. A small ultrasound wand goes in the other. These tools allow the surgeon to locate and measure each fibroid.
A third instrument is then inserted into the fibroids, one by one, delivering small needles heated with radiofrequency energy that softens and shrinks them. This method does not eliminate fibroids. It only reduces their size, making it a volume-reduction procedure. Fibroid regrowth is possible, as is new fibroid development, which is one of the uterine fibroid ablation risks you’ll want to consider with this alternative to a hysterectomy.
Transcervical Radiofrequency Ablation
Transcervical radiofrequency ablation uses nearly the same technique as laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation. The major difference is that incisions are not required. Instead, the ultrasound wand and radiofrequency device are inserted through the cervix.
Fibroid Ablation Recovery
Recovering from fibroid ablation usually takes less time than recovery from surgical procedures like hysterectomy. You’ll probably experience mild to severe pain, and your doctor can recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications. You’ll also receive instructions related to sex, using feminine products like tampons, heavy lifting, and physical activity.
Follow-up visits are rarely needed after uterine fibroid ablation procedures. However, if you have signs of infection such as fever, chills, uncontrollable pain, heavy bleeding, or foul-smelling discharge, contact your doctor immediately.
Fibroid Ablation Recovery Time
You can expect to return to normal activity five to seven days after fibroid ablation. Cramping and bleeding may occur for a few days, followed by discharge or spotting that can last up to a month.
What Are the Effects on Pregnancy After Fibroid Ablation?
One of the most important factors you’ll want to consider when choosing fibroid treatment is your desire to have children. If you get a hysterectomy, pregnancy is impossible because your uterus is removed. Each of the other treatments comes with associated risks to fertility, pregnancy, and birth outcomes.
Because endometrial ablation destroys the tissue where a fertilized egg implants, consider other options if you are or plan to get pregnant. Pregnancy is still possible, however, so the need for birth control remains.
Laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation was approved in 2012, so there are few studies related to pregnancy outcomes. A 2019 study that looked at women who did get pregnant after treatment found no evidence of a negative impact on birth outcomes.
Additionally, a 2020 study that assessed the long-term outcomes of 23 women who treated uterine fibroids with transcervical radiofrequency ablation resulted in one pregnancy with a positive birth outcome, which researchers found promising.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization vs. Fibroid Ablation
Uterine fibroid ablation is often confused with Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), the fibroid treatment option offered at USA Fibroid Centers. If you want to avoid a hysterectomy or other open surgery to remove symptomatic fibroids, you should explore the differences between uterine fibroid embolization and fibroid ablation.
Here are 10 facts to evaluate when weighing UFE and ablation:
- BOTH uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) and fibroid ablation are recommended treatment options for abnormal fibroid growth that causes unpleasant, stressful, or unrelenting symptoms that interfere with daily living.
- BOTH treatments preserve your uterus.
- BOTH ablation and UFE are minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.
- BOTH shrink fibroids and can relieve common fibroid symptoms.
- BOTH result in shorter recovery times than more invasive fibroid treatment options.
- ABLATION is performed under general anesthesia while UFE only requires a local anesthetic and light sedation
- ABLATION requires stitches to close the incisions on your abdomen above your uterus. UFE only requires a bandage on one small incision on your upper thigh.
- ABLATION requires admission to a hospital operating room, while UFE is done in one of our accredited, comfortable centers.
- ABLATION can only work on small fibroids while UFE can target any type or size of fibroid.
- ABLATION needs more research to prove its effectiveness, but UFE is backed by evidence to be nearly 90 percent effective at decreasing or stopping fibroid symptoms over time.
When deciding which treatment is best for you, we suggest you visit a fibroid specialist. They can assess your symptoms and factor in your other health conditions before offering treatment recommendations.
Reasons to Get Uterine Fibroid Embolization Instead of Ablation
Fibroid ablation and uterine fibroid embolization both provide alternatives to traditional surgical fibroid treatment. There are, however, advantages of UFE over fibroid ablation.
Here are the top seven reasons to treat your uterine fibroids with uterine fibroid embolization:
- Available at dozens of USA Fibroid Centers across the country, so you can stay out of the hospital operating room.
- Up to 90 percent effective at relieving or eliminating fibroid symptoms over time so you can have peace of mind that it’s a safe and effective treatment option .
- Requires only a local anesthetic and light sedation, so you don’t have to factor in the risks of general anesthesia when making your treatment decision.
- No need for stitches.
- Zero interference with your hormones or surrounding organs.
- Fewer post-procedure complications as reported by the Society of Interventional Radiology.
- Full recovery in 1-2 weeks: you’ll miss less work and return to your favorite activities sooner.
Schedule a UFE Consultation With USA Fibroid Centers Today
At USA Fibroid Centers, we understand each woman must do what’s best for her body. That’s why we provide the information and resources that may help give you the freedom to live without fibroid pain. If you’d like to speak to one of our compassionate specialists about uterine fibroid embolization, you can request a consultation today.