Sexual Function Improves After Fibroid Procedure

NEW YORK, Mar 07 (Reuters Health) - Women who undergo uterine fibroid embolization, a procedure designed to shrink uterine fibroids, report improved sexual function. And, most of these women would change gynecologists if theirs did not favor the procedure, according to two reports presented Wednesday at the 26th annual meeting of the Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology in San Antonio, Texas.

Fibroids are benign growths that develop in the wall of the uterus. They are associated with excessive bleeding and are often treated by surgical removal. Depending on the size and specific location of the fibroids, hysterectomy may be required. The embolization procedure, on the other hand, blocks the arteries that supply blood to the fibroids. Without their blood supply, the fibroids often shrink in size so significantly that no other treatment is needed.

Dr. Michael G. Wysoki and colleagues from Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, reported preliminary findings of 21 women who underwent uterine fibroid embolization. "Almost all of these patients were self-referred to us through the Internet or the media," Wysoki told Reuters Health.

As determined by follow-up telephone surveys, fibroid embolization did not cause any deterioration in sexual function. In fact, 43% of the women reported an increase in sexual desire after the procedure, the investigators found.

"After the procedure the women felt more sexual," Wysoki said. These women had less bleeding during sexual intercourse, less bloating and pain. "Even with this small sample of 21 patients, the findings were statistically significant," he continued.

"Women who have uterine fibroids and are concerned about post-procedure sexual activity and sexual function should strongly consider uterine fibroid embolization as the treatment of choice, compared to hysterectomy," Wysoki said. The research is continuing with a larger study, he noted.

Using the same group of patients, Wysoki's team evaluated the opinions of their gynecologists toward uterine fibroid embolization. "This is a problematic issue, because gynecologists who adopt this procedure would have to give up hysterectomies, their most lucrative procedure, so there is a generally negative feeling by gynecologists about uterine fibroid embolization," Wysoki explained to Reuters Health.

Each woman was asked to rate her gynecologist's opinion of uterine fibroid embolization before and after the procedure. "The findings were striking," Wysoki said.

Twenty-four percent of the gynecologists initially favored uterine fibroid embolization, and 76% were opposed to the procedure. After their patients underwent fibroid embolization, 43% of the gynecologists changed their minds and were either favorable or indifferent, according to the report.

Eighty-nine percent of the patients did not return to their gynecologist if he or she remained opposed to uterine fibroid embolization, the report indicates. "Gynecologists should open their minds and be receptive to new and advanced minimally invasive procedures; otherwise they will lose their patients," Wysoki said.

Younger female gynecologists are more receptive to new procedures, he pointed out. "The only women that were referred to us for uterine fibroid embolization were referred by young female gynecologists," Wysoki added.

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