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Uterine artery embolization for uterine fibroids is a low-risk procedure

Uterine fibroids, which account for 30 to 40 percent of hysterectomies in the United States, can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, and uterine pressure. Uterine artery embolization, a relatively new procedure to treat uterine fibroids, is a low-risk procedure, concludes a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS09760). During the procedure, a catheter is threaded, usually from a leg artery, into selective uterine arteries. Small particles are injected into the arteries to block blood flow to the fibroids. As a result, the fibroids shrink, leading to resolution of symptoms.

Researchers examined the outcomes of 3,160 women sampled from the Fibroid Registry for Outcomes Data who had undergone uterine artery embolization at 72 sites throughout the United States. Overall, 0.66 percent of women studied suffered from major in-hospital complications, and 4.8 percent suffered from major events (mostly inadequate pain relief) within the first 30 days after hospital discharge.

Thirty-one women required additional surgical intervention within 30 days of treatment, 3 of whom required a hysterectomy (0.1 percent). There were no deaths. Researchers found no difference in length of procedure, length of stay, or incidence of adverse events based on site experience. There were few predictors of adverse events related to patient demographics; however, black women, smokers, and those with prior fibroid procedures had modestly increased odds of suffering from an adverse event.

More details are in "The fibroid registry for outcomes data (FIBROID) for uterine embolization," by Robert Worthington-Kirsch, M.D., James B. Spies, M.D., Evan R. Myers, M.D., M.P.H., and others, in the July 2005 Obstetrics & Gynecology 106(1), pp. 52-59.

Editor's Note: A related paper by the same researchers describes the FIBROID Registry and the demographics of women included in it. For more details, see Myers, E.R., Goodwin, S., Landow, W., and others (2005, July). "Prospective data collection of a new procedure by a specialty society." (AHRQ HS09760). Obstetrics & Gynecology 106(1), pp. 44-51.

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