Uterine Fibroids


Physicians at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital offer a full range of treatments for fibroids, including nonsurgical Uterine Fibroid Embolization performed by interventional radiologists.


What are fibroids?


Uterine fibroids are the most common tumors of the female genital tract. You might hear them referred to as "fibroids" or by several other names, including leiomyoma, leiomyomata, myoma and fibromyoma. They are non-cancerous (benign) growths that develop from the muscular wall of the uterus.


For most women, fibroid tumors either do not cause symptoms or cause only minor symptoms. Fibroids can range in size from very tiny (a quarter of an inch) to larger than a cantaloupe. Occasionally, they can cause the uterus to grow to the size of a five-month pregnancy. In most cases, there is more than one fibroid in the uterus. While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women, including pain and heavy bleeding.




Conditions InDepth: Uterine Fibroids

RadiologyInfo: Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Society of Interventional Radiology


For additional information, contact Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital
Department of Radiology
at (805) 569-7279.

SBCH Radiologists

•  Stuart Braverman, MD

•  Steven Hartzman, MD

•  Arthur Lee, MD


Prevalence of Uterine Fibroids


Twenty to 40 percent of women age 35 and older have uterine fibroids of a significant size.  Uterine fibroids are the most frequent indication for hysterectomy in premenopausal women and, therefore, are a major public health issue. Of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed annually in the United States, one-third are due to fibroids


Uterine Fibroid Symptoms


Most fibroids don’t cause symptoms—only 10 to 20 percent of women who have fibroids require treatment. Depending on size, location and number of fibroids, they may cause:

  • Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods and unusual monthly bleeding, sometimes with clots. This can lead to anemia.
  • Pelvic pain and pressure
  • Pain in the back and legs
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Bladder pressure leading to a frequent urge to urinate
  • Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation and bloating
  • Abnormally enlarged abdomen


image courtesy BioSphere Medical


Treatment Options

Medical treatment with drugs is often used to treat the symptoms but does not cure the problem. Other options include minimally invasive surgery or more invasive procedures including myomectomy and hysterectomy. Many women with symptomatic fibroids are candidates for embolization, a minimally invasive radiology treatment.


Nonsurgical Uterine Fibroid Embolization


Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization, is performed by an interventional radiologist, a physician who is trained to perform this and other types of embolization and minimally invasive procedures. The procedure has been performed since 1995 and over 100,000 women have been treated worldwide.


Prior to the procedure an MRI scan of the pelvis is performed to fully image the pelvic organs and to help determine if the patient is a good candidate for embolization. The patient then meets with the interventional radiologist. Together they will review the MRI scan and discuss more details about the embolization procedure so that the patient can make an informed decision about her treatment.


The embolization procedure is performed in the interventional radiology suite within the radiology department at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. It is performed while the patient is conscious but sedated. It does not require general anesthesia.


The interventional radiologist makes a tiny nick in the skin in the groin and inserts a catheter into the femoral artery. Using real-time imaging, the physician guides the catheter through the artery and then releases tiny particles, the size of grains of sand, into the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroid tumor. This blocks the blood flow to the fibroid tumor and causes it to shrink and die.


UFE Recovery Time


Fibroid embolization usually requires a hospital stay of one night. Pain-killing medications and drugs that control swelling typically are prescribed following the procedure to treat cramping and pain. Many women resume light activities in a few days and the majority of women are able to return to normal activities within seven to 10 days.


UFE Efficacy

  • On average the fibroids shrink about 50% in size after embolization and are very unlikely to regrow.
  • 85-90 percent of women who have had the procedure experience significant or total relief of heavy bleeding, pain and/or bulk-related symptoms.



Sources:  Society of Interventional Radiologists; BioSphere Medical