April 9, 2006 – The condition affects up to 40 percent of all women 35 and older, and it's extremely painful, leading many women to seek hysterectomies.
Now V.I. women have another option for a painful condition called uterine fibroids. The treatment is called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), and it requires no surgery or inpatient hospital stays.
Dr. Jeffrey Guller, a board-certified diagnostic and vascular interventional radiologist, performed the territory's first fibroid embolization this past week at the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital, where he is on staff as a vascular-interventional radiologist.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that develop in the walls of the uterus. These growths can cause heavy bleeding, anemia, frequent urination, and pain. The symptoms lead many women to seek treatment. African-American women are at a higher risk for fibroids, with as many as 50 percent having fibroids of significant size.
Today the most common treatment for uterine fibroids has been invasive surgical procedures such as hysterectomy – the full removal of the uterus.
UFE works by blocking the blood supply to the fibroid, causing it to shrink. Unlike other treatment methods for uterine fibroids that may cause side effects or require hospital stays, UFE is a minimally invasive procedure with a short recovery time and few side effects.
"Patients like to go home and sleep in their own beds. Many resume light activity the next day," Dr. Guller said. The procedure is usually recommended to women who have symptomatic uterine fibroids, have completed their families, are in the peri-menopausal years and who wish to avoid hysterectomy.
Dr. Guller explained that the procedure works by inserting a small tube or catheter into the blood vessel in the upper leg and then into the artery that supplies the uterine fibroid. The interventional radiologist injects dye in order to obtain a "roadmap" of the blood supply. Tiny particles, the size of sand, are then injected into the blood vessels supplying the fibroids. This blocks blood to the fibroids. Subsequently, the fibroids shrink and over time the bleeding, pain or other symptoms subside. The whole procedure takes about one hour.
"We are pleased that we are able to offer women in the Virgin Islands access to this new, noninvasive treatment for a condition that has primarily been treated with invasive surgery," said Dr. Thelma Ruth Watson, medical director at Schneider Regional Medical Center.
Dr. Margaret Sprauve, director of OB/GYN services at the hospital, said the treatment "gives patients a treatment option that has less risk, less pain and less recovery time than open surgery."
Dr. Jeffrey Guller came to Schneider Regional last year from Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, where he was assistant clinical professor in radiology. Mt. Sinai was listed as one of the nation's best teaching hospitals by "U.S. News & World Report" in 2005.
If you feel that you are candidate for uterine fibroid embolization, please contact your physician or feel free to call Dr. Guller at 774-0265.
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