There are times in life when surgery is inevitable and necessary because there are no alternate options. In cases such as cancer, a life-threatening injury, or a serious medical condition, it may be the best and only available treatment.
Sometimes, depending on the patient’s health and the condition being treated, the patient may have options available to them that are less invasive or non-surgical. These alternate types of treatment may offer lower risk factors, fewer possible complications, and a faster recovery.
Today we are going to talk about a fibroid horror story where myomectomy surgery went very wrong. We will lay out the facts that we gathered from the news reports and discuss some alternatives that could possibly have been able to prevent this tragedy.
A Bit About The Fibroid Patient
Ever since 35-year-old Alessandra was a teenager, she had been enthralled by Brazilian carnival dancers (passistas) and spent her entire life working hard to become one. Her hard work paid off, and she realized her dreams of becoming a skilled passista at the highly acclaimed Academicos do Grande Rio school in Brazil. She split her time between dancing and working in the beauty industry in a hair salon.
Alessandra had been experiencing abdominal pain and other symptoms that were affecting her ability to function and be at her best. In August of 2022, she went to her doctor about her symptoms and discovered that she had uterine fibroids. He recommended a myomectomy to remove the fibroids.
Alessandra’s Fibroid Horror Story Begins With Complications From Myomectomy
In February 2023, Alessandra underwent myomectomy surgery, and something went horribly wrong. Imagine going to sleep to have fibroids removed from your uterus but waking up in a completely different hospital without a uterus and with half of your arm missing!
The Myomectomy Turned Into An Unplanned Hysterectomy
Hours after the myomectomy, Alessandra’s family was informed that she was experiencing hemorrhage (severe postoperative bleeding) and that it would be necessary to remove her entire uterus. It appears from the news accounts that the doctors waited until the next day to remove her uterus – to perform a hysterectomy.
The day after removing her uterus, her family went to visit Alessandra, who was in a coma, and noticed the fingers on her left hand appeared darkened, and her arms and legs were bandaged. When her mother asked the medical staff about it, she was told that her daughter was cold.
Complications From Fibroid Surgery Caused Necrosis And Arm Amputation
The condition that had developed is called necrosis, which occurs when the cells in your body tissue die. It can happen as a result of infection, traumatic injury, disease, or a lack of adequate blood flow to the area. In cases of severe blood loss, a condition called Shock can make it difficult for the body to get adequate blood flow to certain parts of the body, especially the arms and legs. Unfortunately, once the tissue has died, there is no way to revive it, and it must be removed.
Two days after the hysterectomy, still in a coma, she was transferred to a different hospital. The family was informed that they could not save the lower portion of her arm and that it needed to be amputated to preserve her life. She woke up to find that her surgery had resulted in severe complications and was devastated.
Hysterectomy For Fibroids Caused Serious Infection
A few days after she was discharged, she had to be admitted to a third hospital for an infection in her abdomen, and this hospital transferred her to a fourth hospital. Her condition worsened, and her liver and kidneys began to fail. She remained in the hospital for over 30 days before she was well enough to return home.
At only 35 years old, she had dreams of being a mother and had spent almost two decades building a career. She now feels as if this has ended her life. She is worried about being able to support herself or if she will ever be able to dance again.
Could An Interventional Radiologist Have Prevented Fibroid Surgery Tragedy?
There are over 135 medical specialties and subspecialties according to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and approximately 1,018,776 doctors according to a 2020 physician census. According to the American College of Radiology, there are around 20,000 radiologists counted among these medical specialists. Only 8%–11% of these radiologists are interventional radiologists.
What Is An Interventional Radiologist?
An interventional radiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in minimally invasive procedures that use medical imaging technologies, such as X-rays, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI, to guide their instruments inside the body to diagnose or treat various medical conditions.
They perform a wide range of procedures, such as angioplasty, embolization, biopsy, drainage of abscesses, and more. These procedures cause less pain, provide faster recovery, and lead to fewer complications than traditional open surgery.
Interventional radiologists also work in hospitals with trauma centers and are called upon to provide rapid and specialized care to patients with traumatic injuries. They often work closely with trauma surgeons and their teams, performing a variety of procedures for trauma patients, such as embolization to control bleeding, drainage of fluid collections or abscesses, placing chest tubes, etc., and providing immediate, life-saving interventions.
How Interventional Radiology Services Could Have Changed The Outcome Of This Fibroid Horror Story
Alessandra’s story is heartbreaking because she could have chosen another option to eliminate her fibroids besides surgery. She was probably never told that an interventional radiologist could perform a quick non-surgical procedure that would eliminate her fibroids and that she would go home with just a small bandage.
An interventional radiologist could have performed UFE to eliminate Alessandra’s fibroids without surgery, preventing the hemorrhaging and the lingering infection that almost took her life. Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is typically done as an outpatient procedure and is only performed by an interventional radiologist. During the procedure, the blood flow that is keeping the fibroids alive is blocked, and they can no longer grow or thrive. They begin to shrink and die. Most patients notice significant improvements in their fibroid-related symptoms within the first three months after having UFE. The risks of complications after UFE are significantly lower (less than 1%) than those of surgery.
Additionally, interventional radiologists can stop bleeding or hemorrhaging after surgery using different techniques, depending on the location and severity of the bleeding. An embolization may have been successful, which involves blocking the blood vessel that is bleeding by injecting a special material into it that plugs the vessel and stops the bleeding.
In some cases, a bleeding vessel may need to be repaired with a stent graft, which is a small tube made of metal and fabric that is inserted into the damaged blood vessel to seal the area and restore normal blood flow.
When Alessandra began to hemorrhage in the hospital after her myomectomy, an interventional radiologist may have been successful in stopping the blood loss and preventing necrosis of her arm.
Alessandra’s case has sparked outrage in Brazil and around the world, with many calling for answers and justice. Her story highlights the need for healthcare providers to provide patients with all their treatment options and to choose the least invasive form of patient care for the circumstances.
Ensure You Understand What You Are Consenting To Before Surgery
In the United States, most patients are aware of the risks and complications of the surgery, as these are routinely explained in detail by the medical facility, and we must also sign patient consent forms that acknowledge that we have been made aware of these risks.
One of the clauses that a myomectomy consent form may include is one that authorizes the doctor to remove the uterus if they feel it is necessary. Research has reported that about 3% of the women who undergo myomectomy to remove fibroids end up with hysterectomies instead.
What Is The Safest Treatment For Uterine Fibroids?
Patients can protect themselves by speaking up and asking questions about their treatment, including the risks and benefits of any procedure. Patients also have the right to seek a second opinion or research alternative treatments to ensure that they receive the best possible care.
If you are suffering from uterine fibroids, it is important for you to consider all your treatment options and the risks and possible complications that are associated with each of them. Do your due diligence to find the best treatment for your situation.
Non-surgical UFE is the safest way to eliminate fibroids quickly and should be the first line of treatment in most cases. UFE is 95% successful; however, surgery is always an option as a last resort if necessary.
Where Can I Get Help To Get Rid Of Fibroids Without Surgery?
Contact the Atlanta Fibroid Center to learn more about UFE and how it can eliminate all types of fibroids, even the deeply embedded ones that cannot be addressed through a myomectomy.
Dr. John Lipman and Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout from the Atlanta Fibroid Center are committed to educating women and their support systems about UFE and how it safely treats fibroids. Dr. Lipman founded the Free From Fibroids Foundation, whose mission is to encourage women to be advocates for their own health and make sure they know all aspects of their treatment options so they can make informed decisions. This foundation has been instrumental in influencing legislation that will help empower women with this information.
If you are looking for the most highly qualified expert in UFE, contact the Atlanta Fibroid Center and set up an appointment today. You can be free of debilitating symptoms without undergoing dangerous fibroid surgery.