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 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 partially or fully removes the uterus. The ovaries are sometimes removed as well. Fibroids and hysterectomy are not an attractive combination for 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 determine which option is the right one for you, you can become informed on the differences between these procedures.
What is a Hysterectomy?
Although your doctor may suggest a hysterectomy, we recommend learning about your other options from a fibroid specialist. Although an effective fibroid treatment, hysterectomy can involve permanent changes to your health like infertility and early menopause. Beyond that, fibroid surgery is rarely necessary.
Below, we will go into details of surgical vs. non-surgical fibroid treatment. At USA Fibroid Centers, our experts feel passionately that you should be informed of all available treatments.
Should I Get a Hysterectomy for Fibroids?
A hysterectomy is often recommended for fibroids, but it isn’t the only or often the best option. It can be helpful to compare the two side by side when you’re trying to make an informed decision about fibroid treatment. Here’s what you need to know about UFE vs. a hysterectomy.
Types of Hysterectomy
Two types of hysterectomies exist to treat fibroids. Both are surgical and require an extended recovery time. A supracervical hysterectomy, also known as a partial hysterectomy, involves removing only the uterus. A total hysterectomy removes both the uterus and cervix. Sometimes the surgery includes the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Along with these two basic types of hysterectomy are various methods used for the procedure, which include vaginal, abdominal, laparoscopic, and robotic-assisted hysterectomies. A laparoscopic is the least invasive with a four-week recovery time while an abdominal hysterectomy generally has the longest recovery time of up to eight weeks.
What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a non-surgical treatment, which enables a fibroid specialist to use imaging to find the fibroids. Then, the interventional radiologist inserts a tiny catheter into the leg and injects embolic materials into the affected artery, which blocks blood flow. This allows the fibroid to shrink and die.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization vs. Hysterectomy
Several differences between UFE and hysterectomy exist. One of the main differences is that UFE preserves the uterus, allowing you to have the chance to get pregnant. A hysterectomy takes away any chance of you conceiving or carrying a baby. Recovery time is also different with UFE allowing you to get back to normal activities within two weeks instead of a hysterectomy, which can take up to eight weeks for a full recovery.
A UFE doesn’t require an overnight stay in the hospital as it is performed with a light sedative or local anesthesia. Hysterectomies require general anesthesia and an overnight stay.
After a hysterectomy, 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 six 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 have not gone through menopause will experience an onset of symptoms relating to menopause such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, loss of libido and insomnia. A hysterectomy can affect these organs after being released because the uterus separates the bladder and bowels by holding them in the correct places.
If nerves and blood vessels are severed during the procedure, other pelvic organs can also be negatively affected. After a hysterectomy, the risk of developing a pelvic floor disorder increases.
Not only are there numerous physical side effects to consider before having 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 impact on mental health. These feelings of loss or depression can be intensified if the woman is of childbearing age and wishes 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.
UTERINE FIBROID EMBOLIZATION RECOVERY
Women who undergo UFE can go home the same day as general anesthesia is not used. Because UFE is non-surgical, there is also little risk for 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 can retain their uterus. Other organs are not affected by preserving the uterus, such as the bladder, bowels, and pelvic floor. This avoids loss, as a woman can still become pregnant. UFE also does not force a woman into early menopause. UFE can improve overall self-esteem and mental health by eliminating physical and emotional stress from uterine fibroids. If a woman had multiple, or large fibroids causing a protruding abdomen, women could expect to regain their normal figure. Spending time with friends or family and participating in activities without the worry of unpredictable fibroid symptoms can also positively affect mental health. Overall, women considering UFE have fewer risks to examine than a hysterectomy.
Women who undergo a hysterectomy will have to be admitted to the hospital and put under general anesthesia, as it is major surgery. The doctor will make an incision in the vagina, abdomen, or multiple small incisions during the procedure to remove the uterus completely. A hospital stay is then required to monitor the patient for any surgical complications. The incision site determines the length of the hospital stay and whether just the uterus was removed or if the ovaries and cervix were removed as well. If you have a hysterectomy, you can expect both stitches and scarring.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a non-surgical procedure performed at outpatient treatment centers like USA Fibroid Centers. The process 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 is 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, ensuring 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.
When it comes to a hysterectomy vs. Uterine Fibroid Embolization, UFE involves less pain, fewer risks, and a shorter recovery. This minimally-invasive technique allows you to go home the same day as your procedure. Most women are back to normal activities within only one to two weeks, with no stitches or scarring involved.
Can Fibroids Return After Embolization?
Once the source of the blood supply is cut off to a fibroid, it cannot grow back. This doesn’t mean new fibroids can’t form, but the ones that have been treated won’t return.
Hysterectomy Alternatives? Contact USA Fibroid Centers
There are several alternatives to a hysterectomy for fibroid treatment. These include:
- Myomectomy: Another type of fibroid surgery that removes only the fibroids instead of the entire uterus
- Medications: Although some medications may offer symptomatic relief, only fibroid treatment like fibroid surgery or UFE can treat your symptoms at their source –– the fibroids themselves
- Uterine Fibroid Embolization: A minimally-invasive, outpatient procedure that shrinks your fibroids and can eliminate painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient symptoms
To learn more about our minimally-invasive approach to fibroid care, simply schedule an appointment online. You can talk to one of our physicians today and feel at immediate ease that you’re in good hands. We offer dozens of clinic locations nationwide, along with telemedicine options. Don’t suffer from symptomatic fibroids any longer. Get help today!