Utilizing Imaging to Avoid Surgery and Treat Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids (also called leiomyomas) are the most common benign tumors of the female pelvis. The lifetime prevalence of fibroids is greater than 80 percent among African American women and approximately 70 percent among Caucasian women. About half the women with fibroids experience symptoms which may include heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic bulk symptoms with bladder and bowel dysfunction, abdominal bloating, pain with intercourse, and infertility. These symptoms can significantly diminish one’s quality of life.

Until recently, invasive surgeries such as hysterectomy or myomectomy were the available treatment options for symptomatic fibroids. There is now a relatively novel FDA-approved noninvasive outpatient treatment option available for women with symptomatic fibroids. High-intensity focused ultrasound or HIFU (also known as magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound or MRgFUS) uses imaging to destroy fibroid tissue while preserving the uterus without invasive surgeries.

HIFU is part of a class of procedures called minimally invasive image-guided procedures (MIIPs). This specific type of procedure utilizes high energy sound waves which pass through the lower abdomen and converge in an area the size of a grain of rice within the fibroid.  The focused ultrasound waves create heat that destroys the fibroid cells without impacting the surrounding healthy tissue.

Prominent in her focus on treatments using this technique is UCSF’s Associate Professor Maureen Kohi, MD. “Although the procedure may take up to three or five hours to complete, women leave the hospital the same day and are back to normal activities in a few days,” explains Dr. Kohi, whose research focuses heavily on evaluating minimally invasive treatment options for symptomatic uterine fibroids.

For Dr. Kohi, one of the keys to tackling uterine fibroids with HIFU is collaboration. As an Interventional Radiologist specializing in minimally invasive treatments of these benign tumors, she depends on the expertise of members of the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, as well as her own MR-guided focused ultrasound team of physicians, nurses, technicians and researchers.

To learn more about minimally invasive treatments for fibroids in the uterus, please click here.

Related Content

Related People