Potential Side Effects from Fibroid Treatments

Fibroid embolization is an increasingly popular treatment for uterine fibroids. The nonsurgical procedure destroys fibroids by cutting off their blood supply, and a growing number of experts say it is a preferable option to hysterectomies.

The treatment preserves a woman's uterus, and has far fewer side effects than hysterectomy. The Hers Foundation cites adverse effects of hysterectomies here: http://www.hersfoundation.org/effects.html.

In 2003, Dr. Tim Johnson reported on women who were having problems with sex after undergoing hysterectomies and said they were never warned of the surgery's consequences. To read that story, click here.

For more information on uterine fibroid embolization visit the National Uterine Fibroids Foundation Web site at http://www.nuff.org or call the group toll free at 1-800-874-7247.

There have been numerous studies on uterine fibroid embolization as a treatment for fibroids. Here are some major research findings.

• Comparison of Uterine Embolization With Hysterectomies This study, published in the most recent journal of the American College of Obstetrics, states that women who underwent fibroid embolization suffered fewer complications than those who underwent hysterectomies to remove fibroids.

• Comparison of Uterine-Sparing Procedures for Fribroid Treatments This study was published in the June 15, 2000 issue of American Family Physician. In it, Steven J. Smith, M.D., compares risks and benefits of various treatments for symptomatic fibroids. Smith finds far fewer risks associated with embolization procedures than with hysterectomy or myomectomy.

Adverse Effects Possible With Any Procedure

All medical procedures carry possible health risks and adverse side effects. Since fibroid embolization procedures were first performed in the mid-1990s, experts have found that the procedure compares favorably to both hysterectomy and myomectomy for fibroid treatment.

Below are adverse effects cited in medical publications for all three procedures.

Fibroid Embolization • Infection The incidence rate of infection after UAE is about 4 percent of all patients and most are treated with oral antibiotics as an outpatient. Less than 1 percent need to be readmitted for infection. • Misembolization Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) particles may flow or drift into organs or tissues where they were not intended to be, causing damage to other organs or other parts of the body. This is rare; only 3 cases have been reported in at least 40,000 procedures worldwide. • Ovarian damage, loss of ovarian function, menopause The incidence of ovarian dysfunction is less than 2 percent in women younger than age 45. It is higher if the woman is already nearing menopause. • Failure of embolization surgery 10 percent for bleeding symptoms and 15 percent for pain symptoms. • Death The death rate from UAE is 1 in 10,000, while the death rate from major surgery, such as myomectomy and hysterectomy is 1 in 1,000.


• Infection potentially resulting in hysterectomy • Trauma/damage to the fallopian tubes and/or ovaries • Loss of ovarian function • Surgical injury to other organs requiring additional surgery • Infertility • Pelvic pain due to the formation of adhesions • Failure of myomectomy surgery and continued fibroid growth, potential regrowth within one month • Bowel or bladder obstruction/damage, potentially requiring additional surgery • Uterine prolapse, potentially requiring additional surgery or resulting in hysterectomy • Menopause


• Infection requiring additional hospitalization and/or additional surgery • Surgical injury to other organs requiring additional surgery • Loss of ovarian function • Infertility • Sexual dysfunction • Prolapse of bowel, bladder, or vaginal cuff resulting in additional surgery • Bowel or bladder obstruction requiring additional surgery • Increased risk of hypertension or heart disease and osteoporosis • Pelvic pain due to the formation of adhesions • Menopause

More information on the treatment of uterine fibroids is available at these Web sites: http://nuff.org http://www.SIRweb.org http://www.4woman.gov http://www.hersfoundation.com