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Doctors study non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy


March 11, 1997
Web posted at: 6:49 p.m. EST (2349 GMT)

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From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Non-cancerous but painful uterine tumors called fibroids are a fact of life for about a third of all women over age 35. But researchers have come up with a new procedure that could help those women avoid the need for a hysterectomy.


"I had severe abdominal pain and heavy bleeding," said Lisa Ohler, who was facing the prospect of a hysterectomy, or surgical removal of the uterus.

Hoping to avoid the operation, which would require a long recovery period and make her unable to have children, Ohler, 39, opted for a non-surgical alternative.

She was one of 10 women who took part in a study at UCLA in which doctors dried up the fibroids by cutting off their circulation.

Shorter recovery period

In the new procedure, doctors insert a thin tube into a woman's artery, guide it to the uterus, and fill the tube with small plastic particles that block the flow of blood. The procedure is monitored on X-ray machines.

three procedures

"Patients are usually in the hospital for about six hours," says Dr. Scott Goodwin of the UCLA Medical Center. "They can go back to work in a matter of days instead of weeks following a hysterectomy, and they retain their uterus."

Ohler said now she has normal menstrual periods and feels great. "I would recommend the procedure to anybody. It's been a lifesaver to me," she said.

Other surgical options

There are other surgical options for getting rid of fibroids, including laparoscopy, sometimes referred to as Band-Aid surgery because it involves a few very small incisions. With laparoscopy, the fibroids are pulled out through a hole near the belly button.

But that operation often can't get all of the tumor and requires general anesthesia instead of the light sedation called for with the new procedure.

However, researchers caution they don't know what kind of effect the new procedure might have on fertility. So until more is known, they recommend that women who are trying to get pregnant try laparoscopy first.


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