You have just been told by your OB/GYN that the source of your heavy bleeding and ongoing discomfort is being caused by uterine fibroids. They then tell you that your only real option for treatment is to have them taken out with laparoscopic fibroid removal.
You may be a bit overwhelmed and have many questions about exactly what this means for your health or future. Today we are going to try to answer some of your questions about laparoscopic uterine fibroid removal so you will have a comprehensive understanding of what the procedure entails, the risks involved, how long the results last, and what is involved in the recovery.
What Is Laparoscopic Uterine Fibroid Removal?
A laparoscope is a tool that is used to perform surgery in a less invasive way rather than using a large incision and an open approach. This tool contains a tiny camera and a source of light and transmits a real-time video feed to a monitor that the surgeon uses as a guide during the procedure.
There are different techniques used for fibroid removal surgery done laparoscopically.
This surgery is done through several small incisions that are made in the abdominal area instead of using traditional open surgery. A lighted instrument that houses a tiny camera is inserted through one of the incisions (usually close to the belly button), and other special medical tools are inserted through the other incisions to conduct the procedure.
During the procedure, each fibroid is cut out and removed through one of the incisions. Sometimes this requires the tumor to be dissected into smaller pieces to make it possible to remove it. Laparoscopic fibroid removal can be done using robotically assisted technology, through a single incision, or through the vagina.
This procedure is very similar to the traditional laparoscopic removal process outlined above except there is only one incision created. This incision is a bit larger, but all the instruments are lowered down through a single point of entry, and the fibroids are removed through that same place.
Hysteroscopic Fibroid Removal
This laparoscopic procedure removes uterine myomas by accessing them via the vagina. There are no incisions made, but the same set of tools are used to remove the growths, but they are taken out through the vagina. Usually, the OB/GYN will do an imaging scan to determine if this method is a possibility because it is the easiest to perform and to recover from.
Risks Of Laparoscopic Uterine Fibroid Removal
Any type of surgery has certain elements of risk, and while laparoscopic surgery has fewer risks than traditional “open” surgery, there are still risks you should be aware of.
First, there are the risks associated with general anesthesia. This procedure can take anywhere between two and four hours, depending on the number of fibroids being removed and their location. Around 5% of patients experience the standard side effects of vomiting, nausea, and feeling ill for several hours after its use. Other common side effects include:
- Sore throat with a hoarse voice;
- Mouth dryness;
- Feeling Sleepy;
- Aching Muscles;
Serious Complications Are Rare And Occur In Less Than 1% Of Cases
- Burning while urinating, unable to control urine (leaking);
- Ileus (sluggish or stalled digestive system);
- Unable to breathe independently;
- Aspiration while under anesthesia resulting in pneumonia.;
- Blood Clots;
- Malignant Hyperthermia (a type of life-threatening allergy to anesthesia);
- Anesthesia Awareness (where you are not fully asleep but unable to move or speak), which can result in PTSD.
Other Potential Risks Of Laparoscopic Uterine Fibroid Removal
- Extreme loss of blood
- Women with fibroids often have blood-related issues such as anemia, which puts them at higher risk if they lose too much blood during their surgery. The laparoscopic myomectomy involves using some type of tool to cut the fibroids out of the places they are growing. Some of these tumors can be embedded into the uterine walls and are very hard to remove. This can sometimes cause excessive bleeding that is hard to stop, and in 3% to 7% of all of these types of cases, it requires a blood transfusion.
- Adhesions In The Uterus
- Scar tissue can form in the locations where the fibroids were removed and may interfere with future fertility or cause chronic pelvic discomfort. Research presented by the Cleveland Clinic has indicated that women who have six or more fibroids removed are more likely to have fertility issues. Of those who did become pregnant after having six or more removed, only half were able to sustain the pregnancy.
- Complications Related To Childbirth
- Removing myomas may result in the strength and functionality of your uterus being compromised. (Think of a piece of Swiss cheese.) If weakened due to this surgery, there is a risk of uterine rupture during delivery, so many doctors will not even risk it, and they require women who have had a myomectomy to have a cesarean section.
- Surprise Hysterectomy
- Some women go in to have fibroids removed and find out after their surgery that the surgeon had to remove their entire uterus due to unstoppable bleeding, or too many fibroids, etc.
- Spreading Cancer
- Rarely, a cancerous tumor is mistaken for a fibroid, and the attempts to remove it by cutting it into smaller pieces initiate the spread of the cancer.
- Return or Residual Fibroids
- Because these growths can develop in different areas of the uterus, some may be located in spots that are difficult to access. This may result in the surgeon being unable to remove it or only partially removing it. Statistics show us that around one-third of the women who have a myomectomy have a recurrence of the growths by the five-year mark.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the myomectomy is the inability to adequately reach and remove all of the fibroids and the amount of time it takes to remove them. The longer the surgery takes, the more the risks increase. Research has indicated that the risks increase by around 14% for each 30 minutes of surgery.
There Is A Better Way To Deal With Fibroids
The Atlanta Fibroid Center has been helping women get rid of fibroids and their nasty symptoms without surgery for almost three decades. Dr. John Lipman is a board-certified interventional radiologist and one of the pioneers of uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), the only non-surgical treatment for fibroids that is 90% effective. He and Dr. Ermentrout collectively have over 40 years of experience and are experts in this field.
UFE can effectively treat all fibroids, regardless of their location or size. The procedure itself is done as an outpatient and only takes about 45 minutes. Patients can go home the same day and will only have one bandaid on their upper thigh as evidence of the procedure. During the procedure, tiny particles are used to block the blood flow to the fibroids. Without their blood supply, they cannot survive, and they shrink and die, thus eliminating the symptoms. UFE eliminates fibroids safely, and the results are permanent. It is unusual for women to experience a recurrence of fibroids after UFE.
If you are looking for options to treat uterine fibroids, before you consider laparoscopic fibroid removal surgery, contact the Atlanta Fibroid Center. Talk to our world-renowned fibroid expert and find out if UFE would be an option for you. This procedure is covered under most insurance plans, including Medicaid. Give us a call today so you can live a better quality of life tomorrow.