When uterine fibroids require surgery
Many women experience uterine fibroids in their lifetime. They are benign, non-cancerous growths that originate from the muscle layer of the uterus. Locations may vary either within the cavity of the uterus, the muscle itself of the uterus, or outside the uterus. For many women, the fibroids are small and cause no issues.
Later in life, during menopause, fibroids shrink even further. But for some women, fibroids can cause the following symptoms that may require medical attention:
- Abdominal swelling
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Back discomfort and cramping
- Frequent urination
- Fertility issues
The closer the fibroid is located to the cavity of the uterus, the more likely symptoms are related to bleeding. Fibroids located farther from the uterine cavity are associated with back discomfort and frequent urination. The following factors may put a woman at higher risk:
- A family history of fibroids
- Not having gone through childbirth
- African-American women have a higher rate of fibroids
- Having had a first period before the age of 10
Surgery may be required to remove the fibroids. A patient can benefit greatly if the fibroids are removed during minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. “Overall, a minimally invasive approach to surgery has proven to be an advantage to our female patients,” says Dr. Charles E. Miller, an Advocate Lutheran General Hospital physician who specializes in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery and reproductive endocrinology
Instead of making large incisions to remove the growth, surgeons make very small incisions. Then, using a thin, fiber optic tube with a very tiny video camera on it, they perform the surgery through the small incisions and remove the fibroids. This can be performed conventionally at bedside or via robotic assistance. Because the incisions are so small, the benefits to patients are:
- Less pain
- Decreased blood loss
- Reduced risk of infection
- Faster recovery
- Minimal scarring (not only impacts women interested in subsequent pregnancy, but pelvic pain as well)
“This is certainly the case when dealing with uterine fibroids,” adds Dr. Miller. “Not only is there less risk of bleeding and infection, the recovery time is shorter and easier. The risk of subsequent scar tissue formation has also proven to be less. This is especially advantageous to our patients suffering from pelvic pain and or infertility.”
Check out Dr. Miller discussing this minimally invasive gynecological surgery in this video.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!