Uterine artery embolization as a treatment option for uterine myomas

Paul B Marshburn, Michelle L Matthews, Bradley S Hurst
Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America 2006, 33 (1): 125-44
Information is still being collected on the long-term clinical responses and appropriate patient selection for UAE. Prospective RCTs have not been performed to compare the clinical results from UAE with more conventional therapies for symptomatic uterine leiomyomata. At least three attempts at conducting such RCTs have been unsuccessful because of poor patient accrual that related to differing patient expectation and desires, clinical bias, insurance coverage, and the tendency that patients who have exhausted other treatment options may be disposed more favorably to less invasive treatments. Other comparative studies have serious limitations. For example, the retrospective study that compared outcomes after abdominal myomectomy with UAE suggested that patients who received UAE were more likely to require further invasive treatment by 3 years than were recipients of myomectomy. Lack of randomization introduced a selection bias because women in the group that underwent UAEwere older and were more likely to have had previous surgeries. A prospective study of "contemporaneous cohorts," which excluded patients who had sub-mucosal and pedunculated subserosal myomas, sought to compare quality of life measures and adverse events in patients who underwent UAE or hysterectomy. The investigators concluded that both treatments resulted in marked improvement in symptoms and quality of life scores, but complications were higher in the group that underwent hysterectomy over 1 year. In this study,however, a greater proportion of patients who underwent hysterectomy had improved pelvic pain scores. Furthermore, hysterectomy eliminates uterine bleeding and the risk for recurrence of myomas. Despite the lack of controlled studies that compared UAE with conventional surgery, and despite limited extended outcome data, UAE has gained rapid acceptance, primarily because the procedure preserves the uterus, is less invasive, and has less short-term morbidity than do most surgical options. The cost of UAE varies by region, but is comparable to the charges for hysterectomy and is less expensive than abdominal myomectomy. The evaluation before UAE may entail additional fees for diagnostic testing, such as MRI, to assess the uterine size and screen for adenomyosis. Other centers have recommended pretreatment ultrasonography, laparoscopy, hysteroscopy, endometrial biopsy, and biopsy of large fibroids to evaluate sarcoma. Generally,after UAE the recovery time and time lost from work are less; however, the potential need for subsequent surgery may be greater when compared with abdominal myomectomy. Any center that offers UAE should adhere to published clinical guidelines,maintain ongoing assessment of quality improvements measures, and observe strict criteria for obtaining procedural privileges. After McLucas advocated that gynecologists learn the skill to perform UAE for managing symptomatic myomas, the Society of Interventional Radiology responded with a precautionary commentary on the level of technical proficiency that is necessary to maintain optimum results from UAE. The complexity of pelvic arterial anatomy, the skill that is required to master modern coaxial microcatheters, and the hazards of significant patient radiation exposure were cited as reasons why sound training and demonstration of expertise be obtained before clinicians are credentialed to perform UAE.A collaboration between the gynecologist and the interventional radiologist is necessary to optimize the safety and efficacy of UAE. The primary candidates for this procedure include women who have symptomatic uterine fibroids who no longer desire fertility, but wish to avoid surgery or are poor surgical risks. The gynecologist is likely to be the primary initial consultant to patients who present with complaints of symptomatic myomas. Therefore, they must be familiar with the indications, exclusions, outcome expectations, and complications of UAE in their particular center. When hysterectomy is the only option, UAE should be considered. Appropriate diagnostic testing should aid in the exclusion of most, but not all, gynecologic cancers and pregnancy. Other contraindications include severe contrast medium allergy, renal insufficiency, and coagulopathy. MRI may be used to screen women before treatment in an attempt to detect those who have adenomyosis; patients should be aware that UAE is less effective in the presence of solitary or coexistent adenomyosis. Because some women may experience ovarian failure after UAE, additional studies to determine basal follicle-stimulating hormone and estradiol before and after the procedure may provide insight into UAE-induced follicle depletion.UAE is a unique new treatment for uterine myomas, and is no longer considered investigational for symptomatic uterine fibroids. There is international recognition that data are needed from RCTs that compare UAE with surgical alternatives. Current efforts to provide prospective objective assessment of treatment outcomes and complications after UAE will help to optimize patient selection and clinical guidelines. FIBROID should provide critical data for the assessment of safety and outcomes measures for women who receive UAE for symptomatic uterine myomas.


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