4 UFE Myths You Might Hear from Your Doctor

Uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE, is one of the biggest medical breakthroughs for women suffering from uterine fibroids. Dr. Lipman at the Atlanta Fibroid Center is one of the world’s leading experts and has extensive experience in this incredible procedure. He was the first to perform UFE in Georgia and has treated over 10,000 women in the past 25 years.

Despite the very long track record of safety and efficacy of the UFE procedure, most women suffering from fibroids and seeking help from their OB/GYN will not hear about this amazing alternative to surgery. There are a few reasons for this, and many of them revolve around misinformation and myths circulating that are not true about uterine fibroid embolization.

Today we are going to debunk these myths and the things that you may hear that are false about uterine fibroid embolization.

Video: 4 UFE Myths You May Hear from Your Doctor

Myth #1: “Your Only Option To Treat Fibroids Is Through Surgery”

This is a myth, despite what you may hear. Fibroids are often treated with either myomectomy surgery (the doctor attempts to cut out each fibroid from the uterus and then sews your uterus back together) or hysterectomy (the doctor removes your entire uterus).

Why would your doctor not tell you about UFE if they knew about this non-surgical option? Quite simply, many OB/gyns would rather attempt to treat the patient with surgery, as they are trained surgeons. But a survey of nearly 1,000 women in the U.S. published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Journal of Women’s Health in 2013 revealed that the average time for women suffering from fibroids to seek treatment was over 3 ½ years, with 1/3 of them waiting for 5 years.

When they asked the women why they waited to be treated, the majority of them said they did not want surgery. They wanted a non-surgical option, and UFE was not typically mentioned to these women. The fact that most women suffering from fibroids did not want surgery was surprising to the gynecologists who reported on this data,but  not to Dr. Lipman. Every day he sees women in his office at the Atlanta Fibroid Center who are not interested in surgery and are looking for cutting-edge procedures that are safer than surgery, less invasive, have a much quicker recovery, and allow them to keep their uterus.

UFE is a completely non-surgical outpatient option that treats every fibroid in the uterus and is just the kind of procedure these women are looking for. Unfortunately, most women are never offered UFE as a treatment option.

What [Really] Happens After a Partial Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy removes a woman’s uterus, but women are often confused when they are told they “just” need a partial hysterectomy, and they mistakenly think this only removes a part of the uterus. A partial hysterectomy removes the entire uterus and leaves the ovaries behind, whereas a complete hysterectomy removes the uterus AND the woman’s ovaries. The theoretical advantage (and what they are told) of a partial vs. a complete hysterectomy is that patients undergoing a partial hysterectomy wouldn’t go into menopause immediately after the surgery. However, one out of three patients who underwent partial hysterectomy did go into menopause immediately, and another 1/3 of patients went into menopause early.

Removing the uterus for benign fibroids is completely unnecessary and often results in significant psychological (like a man being castrated) and physical side effects. Long-term, a hysterectomy causes significant bone loss and frequent urinary issues (leaking or incontinence), sexual dysfunction, and an increased risk for many serious medical and mental issues. Add to this list the usual list of risks and complications associated with surgery.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization in Atlanta, GA

Myth #2: You Can’t Have Children After UFE

This is probably the biggest thing women are told that is not true about uterine fibroid embolization. These days, more younger women are developing uterine fibroids, and they wish to preserve their fertility. Their doctor tells them that the only option they have in that case is a myomectomy, which is absolutely false. Dr. Lipman has seen numerous children born after UFE, including three sets of twins. Births after UFE are typically full-term and vaginal. In fact, he has an entire wall in his office dedicated to pictures and letters, just like this one.

Fibroids and Pregnancy: Miracle Baby
Doris Combs’ letter to Dr. Lipman nearly 18 years after her UFE procedure at Atlanta Fibroid Center. Read the full story of Doris Combs and her miracle baby.

The surgical alternative is called a myomectomy. This surgical procedure attempts to remove the biggest fibroids from the uterus and then sew the uterus back together. Fibroids can grow in many locations within the uterus and are often deeply embedded. They can also be located in clumps together, which can leave the uterus greatly compromised when they are cut out. Surgeons are often unable to remove all of the fibroids, and many women experience growth within 3-5 years and require another procedure. Dr. Lipman has seen numerous women who have had more than one myomectomy (even as many as 5), and they have come to talk with him about UFE, which will be their 6th procedure! A myomectomy can impact a woman’s fertility, and the risks of this happening increase with each subsequent myomectomy.

Additionally, if a woman becomes pregnant after undergoing a myomectomy, it almost always means an automatic C-section because of the risk of uterine rupture during delivery.

Myth #3: You Are NOT Qualified for UFE

Sometimes, a woman with symptomatic fibroids is told they wouldn’t qualify for UFE because of the size of her uterus or the number of fibroids that she has. This is more true of myomectomy but completely false about uterine fibroid embolization. UFE works by cutting off the vital blood supply the fibroids need to grow and live, and UFE does this. It does not matter how big or how numerous the fibroids are. No matter what your doctor tells you about qualifying for UFE, if you’re a candidate for a hysterectomy because of fibroids, you’ll be a candidate for UFE. Get a second opinion at the Atlanta Fibroid Center.

Myth #4: You Will Eventually Need a Hysterectomy Anyway

Your doctor may tell you that regardless of how you choose to treat your fibroids now, and even if you have UFE, you will need a hysterectomy someday anyway. This is false information because the vast majority of UFE patients find the relief they are looking for and are symptom-free forever, particularly if they are over 40 years of age at the time of the UFE. Occasionally, a patient will have a fibroid that is tapped into an alternative blood supply other than the uterine artery, and a second embolization procedure is required to block that source. Younger patients have a longer time until menopause and may grow new fibroids, but this is not typical. If you are told you will need a hysterectomy regardless of previous treatment, this is not true about uterine fibroid embolization.

The Biggest Myth of Them All: You Don’t Need Your Uterus

If you are not interested in having children at any point in the future, your doctor may imply that you don’t need your uterus anyway. After all, its key function is to bear children, and therefore, if you are not going to have kids, it’s better to “just be done with it for good.” In those cases, your doctor may suggest a partial or a full hysterectomy as an option.

While there are some instances where a hysterectomy may be medically necessary, uterine fibroids is not one of them. Research has proven that your uterus has a much bigger purpose and role in your life than bearing children. In fact, its purpose in your body is so important that we have dedicated a separate post to the subject to cover it in detail. The quick version is that the removal of the uterus can affect your hormonal balance, sexuality, personality, and overall physical and mental health.

A hysterectomy, whether partial or full, has a 30% complication rate. Many of these are due to bleeding requiring a transfusion or wound issues, but there can also be significant complications from the accidental cutting of nearby structures during surgery (bladder, bowel, ureter), which can, on rare occasions, cause death.

The UFE procedure is much safer than surgery and allows women the relief of symptoms, spares them from the risks and long recovery of surgery, and allows them to keep their uterus.

Choosing the best way for you to treat your fibroids may be a challenging decision that depends on your individual circumstances and needs. But one thing is for sure: you want to have accurate information about all the available treatment options at your disposal in order to make the right choice.

Speak to your OB/GYN AND then a UFE-experienced interventional radiologist like Dr. Lipman to ensure you have accurate information and have not heard myths that are not true about uterine fibroid embolization. After all, it is your body, and you will be living with the side effects or consequences of your treatment choice, so make sure you know the truth and understand what will work best for you.

Read more