Radiological Appearances Of Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids are a common gynecological condition that can be discovered by an OB-GYN during a routine pelvic exam. Also referred to as leiomyomas or myomas, these benign growths can develop in and around the uterus.

However, to gain a more detailed understanding of their size, location, and characteristics, healthcare providers often turn to different types of imaging scans. Ultrasound and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans can be used to confirm the presence and further assess the characteristics of uterine fibroids. Today we are going to talk about these imaging choices and the pros and cons of each.

Imaging Techniques

Each imaging technique offers unique advantages. Ultrasound is relatively inexpensive and readily accessible since most OB-GYN offices possess their own ultrasound machines. This is generally used as a low-cost screening tool to first evaluate gynecologic conditions. As well, gynecologists are trained in the use of ultrasound and can perform these exams in the office.

MRI is a far more detailed and accurate imaging tool and is performed at an imaging facility. MRI scans can more accurately reflect the number, size, and placement of uterine fibroids. This gives the doctor a more accurate picture of why a woman is experiencing certain symptoms and provides guidance on the best treatment.

Ultrasound is a non-invasive and somewhat effective tool for visualizing the appearance of uterine fibroids. It allows medical professionals to generate real-time images of the pelvic region, providing some initial information about the fibroids located within the uterus. The sonographic appearance of fibroids on ultrasound can vary, and they normally present as solid, well-defined masses with different echogenicity levels.

When you use ultrasound to visualize these fibroids, they have unique characteristics that can often be identified easily. Fibroids usually take the form of round or oval masses found in the muscle tissue of the uterus. They can range in size from small seedlings to larger growths.

When looking at the appearance of uterine fibroids on ultrasound images, fibroids typically show up as solid masses that have a clear shape and a smooth boundary. Fibroids can have different levels of echogenicity, which refers to how well they reflect sound waves, so some fibroids may appear brighter than the surrounding uterine tissue, while others may appear darker.

Discrepancies In Image Clarity Between MRI and Ultrasound

An accurate and timely diagnosis is the first step toward effective treatment of this gynecological condition that affects countless women worldwide. Here at the Atlanta Fibroid Center, we are often asked why we require an MRI before moving forward with treatment, even though the patient previously had an ultrasound.

While both techniques have their merits, MRI offers a distinct advantage in providing detailed and comprehensive information about uterine fibroids.

The Pros And Cons Of MRI vs. Ultrasound

MRI Ultrasound
Pros
High-Resolution Imaging: MRI provides exceptionally detailed images, offering a clear and precise view of the uterus and any fibroids present. This high-resolution imaging can reveal the exact size, number, and location of fibroids. Availability and Accessibility: Ultrasound is widely available, cost-effective, and often the first step in diagnosing fibroids.
Differentiating Tissue MRI is particularly adept at distinguishing between various types of tissues in the pelvic region. It can help determine if a growth is indeed a fibroid or if there are other factors at play. Real-Time Imaging: Ultrasound provides real-time images, which can be beneficial for monitoring fibroids during pregnancy or certain medical procedures.
Visualizing Surrounding Structures: MRI allows for a comprehensive assessment of not only the fibroids but also the nearby organs and tissues. This capability is crucial for deciphering the source of unusual symptoms. For example, back pain that mimics sciatica is due to a large fibroid exerting pressure on a nerve. Results: Usually, the doctor can discuss the results with you right after the scan.
Multiplanar Imaging: MRI can generate images in multiple planes, enabling a 3D view of the uterus and fibroids. This aids in evaluating the fibroids’ relationship with the uterine wall and other structures. This is helpful when keeping an eye on fibroids during pregnancy
Contrast Enhancement: In some cases, contrast agents can be used to enhance the visibility of fibroids and surrounding tissues, providing even greater diagnostic accuracy.
Cons
Cost: MRI scans tend to be more expensive than ultrasounds, making them less accessible for some patients. Limited Detail: Ultrasound may not provide the level of detail needed to fully characterize complex fibroids or distinguish them from other pelvic masses.
Time-Consuming: MRI procedures can take longer than ultrasounds, which may inconvenience patients and healthcare providers Operator-Dependent: The quality of ultrasound images can vary based on the operator’s skill and the patient’s anatomy, potentially leading to misdiagnosis or oversight.
Results: The results of an MRI may take longer to be determined and relayed to the patient. Visualizing Surrounding Structures: There is only limited evaluation of other structures in the pelvis.

While both MRI and ultrasound can be used as diagnostic tools, the appearance of uterine fibroids on ultrasound images can lack the detail necessary to ensure a precise diagnosis and enable the doctor to determine the best treatment option. For example, women with adenomyosis are often misdiagnosed and told they have uterine fibroids after undergoing an ultrasound. A subsequent MRI scan shows the details clearly enough to differentiate between the two conditions. MRI imaging stands out as the superior choice for diagnosing uterine fibroids when intricate details and comprehensive insights are essential.

Look at the clarity of images that ultrasound vs. MRI provide. MRI obtains a more precise and detailed image of the abdominal area, which aids in better diagnoses and subsequent treatments.

Pelvic ultrasound vs. pelvic MRI
Pelvic ultrasound vs. pelvic MRI of the uterus with a large fibroid (a black circle)

Contact Atlanta Fibroid Center for a Consultation

If you are seeking answers about uterine fibroids, contact the Atlanta Fibroid Center. We have helped thousands of women become free from their uterine fibroids and the debilitating symptoms they bring with them. Our expert doctors have over 40 years of combined experience performing the UFE procedure that eliminates every fibroid without surgery. Additionally, UFE can also effectively treat most cases of adenomyosis.

Set up an appointment to speak to us today and let us answer your questions and help prepare you to make an informed decision about your fibroids or adenomyosis treatment. UFE preserves your uterus, and many of our patients who desired children went on to experience successful pregnancies. Another great benefit of UFE is that it is not surgery, so the recovery is quick and significantly easier than after having surgery. We would love to share more details with you, so get in touch today!

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