Are Most Hysterectomies Unnecessary?

ByABC News
August 24, 2004, 3:37 PM

Aug. 27, 2004 — -- Elyse Fine's gynecologist told her she needed a hysterectomy to treat a uterine fibroid that was causing heavy bleeding. But Fine, a 44-year-old mother of two, did not agree.

Every minute of every day in this country a woman has her uterus removed in a hysterectomy. Most of the surgeries are done on women under age 50, and the vast majority are performed to treat fibroids, benign tumors that develop in the uterus. Fibroids occur in as many as 80 percent of women. While the growths can cause pain and heavy bleeding, most do not need treatment.

Non-Surgical Option

Fine said she told her doctor, "I'm pretty partial to my body parts and I'd like to keep them. I have two children. I'm not having any more, but I really didn't want any more surgery."

Some experts say alternative treatments are better suited to treating most uterine fibroids. They say as many as 75 percent of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed annually in the United States for various conditions may be unnecessary.

Carla Dionne, who founded the National Uterine Fibroids Foundation after undergoing the procedure herself, says women need to hear more about their options. "I don't think any woman should have to undergo a hysterectomy when there are other viable options for uterine fibroids. And I think it's ridiculous that the other options aren't being made available to women across the country," Dionne said.

One option is fibroid embolization a nonsurgical procedure that destroys fibroids by cutting off their blood supply. The procedure is typically performed by a radiologist.

Caught in a Turf War

But Dionne says most women aren't going to hear about it from their gynecologist."There's a huge war between gynecologists and interventional radiologists," she said. "It has scared the dickens out of women so they wouldn't undergo fibroid embolization. Oh, the horror stories women have been told by their gynecologists about the procedure. It's ridiculous."