JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Uterine artery embolization for symptomatic uterine fibroids

J K Gupta, A S Sinha, M A Lumsden, M Hickey
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, (1): CD005073
16437515

BACKGROUND: Uterine fibroids cause heavy and prolonged bleeding, pain, pressure symptoms and subfertility but are mostly benign. The traditional method of treatment has been surgery as long term medical therapies have not shown to be effective. Uterine artery embolization (UAE - complete occlusion of both the uterine arteries with particulate emboli) has been reported to be an effective and safe alternative in the treatment of menorrhagia and other fibroid-related symptoms in women not desiring future fertility, but thus far this evidence is based on case controlled studies and case reports.

OBJECTIVES: To review the benefits and/or harms from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of uterine artery embolization (UAE) versus other interventions for symptomatic uterine fibroids.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders & Subfertility Group Trials register (searched 10 August 2005), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) on the Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2004), MEDLINE (January 1966 to November 2005) and EMBASE (January 1980 to November 2005). We also contacted authors of potential ongoing studies.

SELECTION CRITERIA: RCTs of UAE versus any medical or surgical therapy for symptomatic uterine fibroids.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two of the authors (AS and JKG) assessed the trials and extracted the data independently. They also contacted the investigators of eligible RCTs for unpublished data.

MAIN RESULTS: Three trials were included in this review. Two RCTs compared UAE with abdominal hysterectomy in 234 women. Although the follow-up period was intended for two years, the available published results was only for six months follow-up. The second trial included 63 women comparing UAE with myomectomy in women who wished to preserve their fertility. The minimum follow-up reported was six months with a mean of 17 (+/- 9.3) months. The clinical success rate measured by improvement in fibroid-related symptoms e.g. menstrual loss was at least 85% in the UAE group from both trials. The mean dominant fibroid volume decreased by 30 to 46% in two trials. UAE significantly reduces length of hospital stay compared to surgery for either hysterectomy or myomectomy. Women undergoing UAE resumed routine activities sooner than those undergoing surgery. UAE was associated with a higher rate of minor post procedural complications such as vaginal discharge, post puncture haematoma and post embolization syndrome (pain, fever, nausea, vomiting), as well as higher unscheduled visits and readmission rates after discharge, compared with hysterectomy. There were no major complication differences between the two groups. Three women in the myomectomy trial had elevated FSH levels post UAE indicating possible ovarian dysfunction.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: UAE offers an advantage over hysterectomy with regards to a shorter hospital stay and a quicker return to routine activities. There is no evidence of benefit of UAE compared to surgery (hysterectomy / myomectomy) for satisfaction. The higher minor complications rate after discharge in the UAE group as well as the unscheduled visits and readmission rates require more longer term follow-up trials to comment on its effectiveness and safety profile. There is currently an ongoing trial (REST, U. K.) and EMMY trial yet to report on the long term follow up, the results of which are awaited with interest.

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