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Fibroid Surgery May Have Risks

Posted by Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 12, 2002 12:00 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care, Medical Procedures

Several new reports on the safety of a popular non-surgical procedure used to treat uterine fibroids (benign tumors consisting of fibrous and muscular tissue) are raising questions in the medical community. During uterine artery embolization (UAE), physicians inject pellets into uterine arteries, cutting off the blood supply of a fibroid. Within a year, the tumor has usually significantly shrunk. Over 30,000 embolizations have been performed since the procedure's introduction in 1995.

In a recent study conducted by researchers with the University of California, Los Angeles, however, 30 percent of UAE patients, who were followed for three years, needed additional fibroid treatment, with only 3 percent of patients who had fibroids removed surgically requiring further treatment. Another study, performed by Georgetown University, followed 400 embolization patients. Five were hospitalized for blood clots, infection or excessive bleeding. A sixth patient required a hysterectomy four months after treatment. Scientists at Thomas Jefferson University conducted one of the most eye-opening inquiries, determining that, after undergoing UAE, women had higher risks of miscarriage, premature birth, breech babies and post-delivery hemorrhage.

Supporters of UAE say the studies are flawed because women with fibroids already face an increased risk of complications during pregnancy but do insist that women research the treatment and see a qualified physician before undergoing the procedure.

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