Hysterectomy vs. UFE
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop in a woman’s uterus and may cause a variety of symptoms. Common symptoms for uterine fibroids are: heavy bleeding during and in between periods, frequent urination, painful periods, severe cramping, and pain or pressure during sex. Women who have been diagnosed with symptomatic fibroids are usually presented with few treatment options and told that a hysterectomy is the only permanent solution, which is just not true. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the uterus either partially, or fully. This option is not attractive to women who want the option to become pregnant in the future or who do not want to lose their uterus. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a non-surgical treatment option for fibroids that preserves the uterus. While talking to your doctor is essential to determining which option is the right one for you, you can become informed on the differences between these procedures.
What does a hysterectomy involve?
Women who undergo hysterectomies will have to be admitted to the hospital and put under general anesthesia, as it is a major surgery. During the procedure the doctor will make an incision in the vagina, abdomen, or multiple small incisions to remove the uterus completely. A hospital stay is then required to monitor the patient for any surgical complications. The length of the hospital stay is determined by the incision site and whether just the uterus was removed or if the ovaries and cervix were removed as well.
Recovery from a hysterectomy
After the procedure some side effects can be expected, including: vaginal bleeding, vaginal discharge, changes in bowel movements, changes in bladder functions, and the onset of menopause. Most women will experience vaginal bleeding or discharge for up to 6 weeks after the procedure. Changes in bowel movements and bladder functions are also common and may need to be monitored. Women who have had their ovaries removed during the procedure and has not gone through menopause, will experience an onset of symptoms relating to menopause. Due to the fact that the uterus separates the bladder and bowels by holding them in the correct places, a hysterectomy can affect these organs after being removed. If nerves and blood vessels are severed during the procedure, other pelvic organs can be negatively affected as well. After hysterectomy, the risk of developing a pelvic floor disorder increases.
Not only is there numerous, physical side effects to consider before having an invasive surgery, but many women do not anticipate the emotional side effects that come after a hysterectomy. The removal of the uterus can have a significant effect on mental health. These feelings of loss or depression, can be intensified if the woman is of childbearing age and wished to become pregnant in the future. Other women may experience depression because they feel like their womanhood is gone. Taking hormone replacements after a hysterectomy can also lead to negative thoughts and feelings. Dealing with painful physical symptoms can be exhausting and endless. Struggling through daily, physical stressors can negatively impact mood and mental health. It is important to consider all the physical and emotional side effects before undergoing a hysterectomy.
The overall recovery time from a hysterectomy is between 6 to 8 weeks.
What is UFE?
Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a non-surgical procedure performed at outpatient, treatment centers like USA Fibroid Centers. The procedure involves an interventional radiologist administering a light sedative to the patient before inserting a catheter through a small incision in the groin or wrist area. An ultrasound is then used to guide the catheter to the artery supplying blood to the fibroid. Once the fibroid has been located, small particles will flow through the catheter to block the blood flow to the fibroid, causing it to shrink and eventually die. After the procedure, the catheter is removed and a small bandage will be placed over the incision. After the patient has had time to relax to allow the light sedative to wear off, the doctor will go over all recovery information, making certain the patient knows what to expect and when to come back for their follow-up visit. The patient will then be able to go home to finish her recovery.
Recovery after UFE
Women who undergo UFE are able to go home the same day as general anesthesia was not used. Because UFE is non-surgical, there is also no risk for surgical complications like infection or hemorrhaging. Patients can expect some discomfort and flu-like symptoms for the first few days following their procedure; however, this discomfort can be managed by over-the-counter pain medication like Ibuprofen.
There are minimal, emotional side effects of UFE because women are able to retain their uterus. By preserving the uterus, other organs are not affected such as the bladder, bowels, and pelvic floor. This avoids the feeling of loss, as there is still the possibility for a woman to become pregnant. UFE also does not force a woman into early menopause. UFE can improve overall self-esteem and mental health, by eliminating the physical and emotional stressors of uterine fibroids. If a woman had multiple, or large fibroids causing a protruding abdomen, women can expect to regain their normal figure. Being able to spend time with friends or family and participate in activities without the worry of unpredictable fibroid symptoms, can also have a positive effect on mental health. Overall, women considering UFE have fewer risks to examine as opposed to a hysterectomy.
Many women return to work within 2-5 days following their treatment, and fully recover after 1 to 2 weeks.