YOUR HEALTH: Why hysterectomies can be avoided for some women

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – 41-year old Venita Gowdy doesn't want to miss a second of her kids' lives.

"Not only do I have a swimmer but a basketball player and a football player," she proudly said.

But a fibroid problem caused Venita to have pain and heavy bleeding during menstrual cycles that would sometimes cause embarrassing leaks.

"Going to the bathroom every 30 minutes and missing things," she remembered.   "My son is six years old, so I thought I was done carrying diaper bags, but I was actually carrying one for myself."

Venita's problem is not uncommon.   More than 50% of women in the U.S. will develop a uterine fibroid by the time they are 50 years old.   Even though not all fibroids cause symptoms, the ones that do can cause quite a bit of disruption to a woman's life.

Fibroids lead to more than 200,000 hysterectomies every year.   -National Institutes of Health

Dr. A.J. Gunn at the University of Alabama at Birmingham thought Venita would be a perfect candidate for a fibroid embolization.

"She came in.  We were able to treat her through just a small pinhole in her wrist."

Then, using x-ray guidance, Gunn was able to find the blood vessels that were feeding the fibroid and block them with tiny particles.  Without blood supply, the fibroids starved and died off.

"We're about 85 to 90 percent successful in controlling the symptoms within the first year," said Dr. Gunn, a University of Alabama radiology assistant professor.

"And if you look out to about five to ten years, we're about 75% successful in keeping them from ever having to get a hysterectomy."

FIBROID EMBOLIZATION:   Uterine Artery Embolization is a non-invasive, non-surgical, and out-patient procedure that is performed under local anesthetic and sedation, and boasts a quick recovery time.   Most patients are back to work in a few days.   An incision the size of a freckle is made in the upper thigh.   A tiny catheter is then inserted though this incision and into the femoral artery.   Using X-ray guidance, a trained physician locates the arteries responsible for supplying blood to each fibroid.   Microscopic particles are injected into the blood vessel, blocking the blood supply that nourishes the fibroid.   Without this steady blood supply, the fibroids begin to dwindle and shrink.   Essentially embolization cures fibroids by starving them.   The procedure itself takes about 45-minutes to one hour.  (Source: https://fibroids.com/embolization/uterine-fibroid-embolization/)

Two weeks later, Venita's symptoms were completely gone.

That means her kids' number one fan is back 100%.

"Not worrying about anything and just sit there and enjoy them."

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.