NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s a new technique that’s said to make a common medical procedure for women far less painful.
It’s an improvement on a procedure that’s been around for years to shrink fibroids, which are non-cancerous tumors that most women will develop at some point in their lives.
Although most women won’t develop any symptoms for them, many women will experience pain, heavy bleeding, or worse, and leads to 200,000 hysterectomies every year.
Now, there’s a less drastic solution.
Fibroids are benign muscle tumors that can grow in a variety of places in and on the uterus. Vlada Bushina knew about her fibroids for a while, but didn’t realize they were causing her painful symptoms.
“I’d been having lower back pain and cramping feeling,” she said. “I never really connected that they might be connected to the fibroids.”
Hormone-blocking drugs and menopause can shrink fibroids, but many women resort to surgery. A less invasive approach developed some years ago is called fibroid embolization, where a thin catheter is threaded right to the blood vessels feeding the fibroids and tiny particles are injected to block the flow, starving the fibroid of blood and shrinking it.
“We selectively find the blood vessels that supply the fibroids, we disrupt them, and we leave the uterine blood vessels intact so the uterus stays alive and the fibroids shrink and die,” Dr. David Greuner from NYC Surgical Associates said.
Typically, that catheter is inserted through an artery in the groin. Instead, Dr. Greuner inserts it through a small artery in the wrist.
It means less risk of bleeding which can happen from the large groin artery.
“The patient can get up immediately after the procedure and walk around, whereas with the leg cannulation procedure they have to lay flat for six hours and they cannot move,” Dr. Greuner said.
Vlada went home a couple of hours after her embolization. Since then, she says she doesn’t experience any symptoms any longer.
When the fibroids are starved of blood, they can become very painful for a while. Dr. Gruener’s team adds another wrinkle to the technique, a selective nerve block on the pain fibers from the pelvis so that the post-procedure pain and discomfort is also completely gone.