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Bloating, severe pain, exhaustion, bleeding so heavy it requires hospitalization and transfusions. These are just some of the many symptoms described by Tammy Peebles, 47-year-old Naperville mom of four.
Peebles experienced increasing symptoms like these for years until faintness and chest pains one night prompted her husband to call 911. At that point, she learned her hemoglobin levels were so low that a blood transfusion was required.
“They explained that I had several large fibroids that were causing me to bleed so heavily that there wasn’t enough blood pumping to organs like my heart,” says Peebles. “It was then I knew I needed to do something.”
After discussing the situation with her gynecologist, Peebles learned she had options – some less invasive than others. While hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) or myomectomy (surgical removal of the fibroids) would eliminate them, Peebles felt she wasn’t ready for invasive surgery. Her doctor referred her to a radiologist to learn more about a procedure called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE).
“I think it’s a team approach to help the patient decide what’s best for her,” says vascular and interventional radiologist, Victor Hu, M.D. “There’s no single procedure that’s right for every woman. We certainly see a variety of patients, some of whom are considered high-risk for surgery, others who are seeking uterine-preserving options and faster recovery.”
Physicians use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine which patients are candidates for UFE.
“Some fibroids are good candidates for embolization, some are not good candidates and sometimes, an MRI will guide us to another cause of the patient’s problems,” says Dr. Hu. “An MRI helps us ensure that embolization is appropriate and safe.”
An interventional radiologist performs the procedure through one small incision in the thigh. Using advanced imaging technology, a small catheter is inserted into the femoral artery and to blood vessels of the fibroid, where embolic agents are delivered to block continued blood supply to the growths. Without nourishment, the fibroids shrink and die, and symptoms decrease or disappear. The patient requires only light sedation.
For Peebles, who had UFE in April 2016, the procedure has been life changing. After an overnight hospital stay, she was home and back to normal life as a mom and her work as an accountant within a week.
“It has made all the difference for me,” she says. “There’s no more pain, bloating or heavy bleeding, and my energy level is so high. I just wish I had done this sooner.”
Learn more about uterine fibroid embolization and women’s health services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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