Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that originate from the muscle layer of the uterus. They are the most common tumor of the uterus and occur in up to 70% of women, however vary in incidence depending on ethnicity and family history. Uterine fibroids (also called leiomyomas) can range from a small pea size to even the size of a grapefruit or softball! As you can imagine, the larger a fibroid becomes the more problematic it can be, with pelvic pain and heavy and irregular bleeding being the most common symptoms women experience.
In the past, fibroids have been treated in various ways. Birth control pills, progesterone injections, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) have all been tried, but often with only modest success. Most often fibroids require surgery in the form of either a myomectomy or a hysterectomy. A myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroids from the uterus. Unfortunately, even after removing them, new fibroids can still grow back. Hysterectomy is the most definitive form of surgery for fibroids, however this involves removing the entire uterus. While this surgery will eliminate any chance of fibroids returning, women often require large incisions (especially when the fibroids are large), lose their ability to have children, and also require a lengthy recovery time of up to six to eight weeks.
The good news is that a new technique called Acessa has been developed as a more minimally invasive way to treat uterine fibroids. It involves tiny incisions, good success rates, and short recovery times, all while preserving the uterus and without having to remove any native tissue or organs. Acessa is performed laparoscopically and uses radiofrequency ablation through a probe tip that is inserted through the belly and directly into the fibroid using ultrasound guidance. Once the tip is inserted into a fibroid, tiny microarrays are deployed directly into the tissue and heat is applied to destroy the fibroid from within. This procedure is performed on as many fibroids as are found by the ultrasound probe. Acessa is performed in a hospital or ambulatory surgical center under general anesthesia and usually takes around 1-2 hours. Patients are discharged the same day and typical recovery time is only around 3-7 days!
The success rates of the Acessa procedure are excellent. Clinical studies have shown that the vast majority of patients experience a significant reduction in their bothersome symptoms and an improvement in their quality of life. In fact, in recent surveys, 98% of patients have reported overall satisfaction with the procedure and would recommend it to a friend.
If you think that you may have uterine fibroids because you suffer from either heavy or irregular periods, anemia, or pelvic pain, we encourage you to discuss this with your doctor at MacArthur OBGYN. Myomectomy or hysterectomy may still be good options for you. However, we are now performing Acessa, a new minimally invasive way to treat your fibroids with small incisions, shorter recovery times, and preserving the uterus all at the same time!