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St. Vincent's Medical Center, Bridgeport CT

Uterine fibroids

St. Vincent's Medical Center, Bridgeport CTSt. Vincent's SWIM Women's Imaging Center (203) 576-5500

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years. Also called fibromyomas, leiomyomas or myomas, uterine fibroids aren't associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer. 

As many as three out of four women have uterine fibroids sometime during their lives, but most are unaware of them because they often cause no symptoms. Your doctor may discover fibroids incidentally during a pelvic exam or prenatal ultrasound. 

Symptoms and diagnosis

In women who have symptoms, the most common symptoms of uterine fibroids include: 

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Prolonged menstrual periods — seven days or more of menstrual bleeding
  • Pelvic pressure or pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty emptying your bladder
  • Constipation
  • Backache or leg pains  

Uterine fibroids are frequently found incidentally during a routine pelvic exam. Your doctor may feel irregularities in the shape of your uterus, suggesting the presence of fibroids. 

Ultrasound

If confirmation of a fibroid is needed, your doctor may schedule an ultrasound, a painless exam that uses sound waves to obtain a picture of your uterus, to confirm the diagnosis and to map and measure fibroids. A doctor or technician moves the ultrasound device over your abdomen or places it inside your vagina to obtain images of your uterus. This procedure can take place in St. Vincent’s Antenatal testing unit.

Other imaging tests

If traditional ultrasound doesn't provide enough information, your doctor may order other imaging studies, such as:  

  • Hysterosonography an ultrasound variation that uses sterile saline to expand the uterine cavity, making it easier to obtain interior images of the uterus. 
  • Hysterosalpingography. This technique uses a dye to highlight the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes on X-ray images. 
  • Hysteroscopy. A small, lighted telescope called a hysteroscope is inserted through your cervix into your uterus. Your doctor injects (instills) saline into your uterus expanding the uterine cavity and allowing your doctor to examine the walls of your uterus and the openings of your fallopian tubes. A hysteroscopy can be performed in your doctor's office.  

Imaging techniques that may occasionally be necessary include computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatments:

In general, uterine fibroids seldom require treatment. Medical therapy and surgical procedures which can be performed at St. Vincent’s Medical Center can shrink or remove fibroids if you have discomfort or troublesome symptoms. Rarely, fibroids can require emergency treatment if they cause sudden, sharp pelvic pain or profuse menstrual bleeding. Fibroids are almost never cancerous.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine Fibroid Embolization requires a very small incision, about the size of a freckle, which is made in your upper thigh. A tiny catheter is inserted through this incision and into the femoral artery. Using x-ray guidance, a trained physician locates the feeder vessels which supply blood to each fibroid. Microscopic inert particles are injected into the vessels, blocking blood supply that nourishes the fibroid. Without a steady blood supply, the fibroids begin to dwindle and shrink.

Uterine Artery Embolization is a non-invasive, non-surgical, out-patient procedure. It is performed under local anesthetic and has a very quick recovery time. Most patients are back at work in a few days.

Myomectomy

Fibroids are the most common cause for hysterectomy. They are associated with as many as 40% of hysterectomies performed in the US. Depending on their location, fibroids can cause heavy bleeding, pelvic and back pain, or pressure on bowel and bladder. Most hysterectomies performed for fibroids [the medical term is myoma] are performed by the abdominal route since the fibroids may grow to be quite large. 

Contact us

St. Vincent's SWIM Women's Imaging Center (203) 576-5500

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