Heart and Vascular Center

Uterine Fibroids

The St. Joseph Hospital Vascular Institute can provide women with a wide range of services, from diagnosis to treatment, for uterine fibroids. Fibroid tumors are noncancerous (benign) growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. Some can be as small as a pea, while others can be as large as a cantaloupe.

Risk Factors

Uterine fibroids are very common, although often they are very small and cause no problems. Up to 40% of women age 35 years and older have uterine fibroids of a significant size. African-American women are at higher risk for fibroids, with as many as 50% having fibroids of a significant size.

Symptoms

While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women, including:

  • Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods and unusual monthly bleeding, sometimes with clots.
  • Anemia
  • Pelvic pain, pressure or heaviness
  • Pain in the back or legs
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Bladder pressure leading to a constant urge to urinate
  • Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation, bloating, and an abnormally enlarged abdomen

They typically improve after menopause when the level of estrogen decreases dramatically. However, menopausal women who are taking supplemental estrogen may not experience relief of symptoms.

Screening and Diagnosis

Uterine fibroids often can be detected during a pelvic examination. An ultrasound may also be performed. In some cases, a flexible scope may be inserted through the vagina into the uterus to view inside (a "hysteroscopy"). This procedure is well tolerated using a local anesthetic.

Treatment

Uterine fibroids typically improve after menopause when the level of estrogen decreases dramatically. However, menopausal women who are taking supplemental estrogen may not experience relief of symptoms. Embolization of uterine fibroids using guidewire and catheter techniques is an effective minimally invasive way to greatly improve or to cure symptoms. The vascular specialists at the St. Joseph Vascular Institute have special expertise in performing this procedure.