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Minimally-Invasive Procedure Shrinks Uterine Fibroid Tumors

Meet Jan Ly

In October 2003, 41-year-old Jan Ly knew something was wrong. The active mother of two, who had had normal menstrual periods her entire adult life, began bleeding heavily for weeks at a time.

“Obviously it impacted my normal activities,” Ly said. “I became more and more concerned and finally went to the doctor. I was diagnosed in December 2003 with uterine fibroids.”

Faced with this diagnosis, Ly had some tough decisions to make about her treatment.

“Traditionally, hysterectomy or myomectomy would have been my choices,” Ly said. “But being a mother of an eight-and-eleven-year-old, as well as a working person, the six-to-eightweek recovery period wasn’t thrilling me. Then my doctor told me about a new minimally-invasive procedure called uterine artery embolization. I was intrigued to say the least. I decided to schedule a consultation.”

Her consultation with Robert Kolanz, MD, interventional radiologist at Little Company of Mary Hospital – Torrance proved enlightening.

“Indeed, both hysterectomy — the surgical removal of the uterus — and myomectomy — the surgical removal of the fibroid tumors themselves — involve invasive operations that require several weeks recovery time,” Kolanz, said. “he uterine artery embolization is a procedure that uses angiographic techniques similar to those used in heart catheterization. The procedure is performed through a tiny needle puncture in the femoral artery in the groin. An injection of contrast material while X-rays are performed provides a road map of the blood supply to the uterus and fibroids. Meanwhile, a catheter about the diameter of a piece of spaghetti is inserted and manipulated into each of the two uterine arteries where tiny particles are introduced, causing the blood supply to be slowed down or cut off. This causes the fibroids to shrink, eliminating symptoms. The procedure has been highly successful and it cuts recovery time to just a few short days.”

Ly opted for the uterine artery embolization procedure and immediately scheduled her appointment.

“I had the procedure done on a Thursday morning,” Ly said. “I remember waking up with some pretty severe cramping, which lasted a couple of hours. I used the morphine pump they gave me during that time, but after about three hours I didn’t need it anymore. I came home on Friday, and by Saturday I was feeling well enough to host a slumber party for my daughter’s birthday with five eleven-year-old girls. That’s really saying something.”

Kolanz says Ly’s experience is fairly typical for the relatively new procedure. With the new minimallyinvasive procedure, instead of a six-eight week recovery time, Jan was back to work in just a few days.

“I believe the procedure has a 90 percent clinical success rate,” Kolanz said. “That means that in 90 out of 100 cases, patients reported significant improvement or eradication of symptoms. Here at Little Company of Mary, we have performed about 25 of these procedures over the last few years, and I believe our success rate may even be higher. It’s a procedure that is slowly catching on, and for patients who are candidates, it offers a viable alternative to more invasive alternatives. Of course, the procedure is not for everybody, and in those cases, traditional treatments have proven successful, as well.”

Most women diagnosed with uterine fibroids and bleeding would be candidates for the uterine artery embolization procedure. However, women with excessively large fibroids have not experienced the same success in alleviation of symptoms.

But for Jan Ly, the procedure proved to be the answer to her prayers.

“I would recommend the procedure to any woman experiencing what I went through,” Ly said. “Like I said, I was up and around the next day and back to all my normal activities within a few days. And, I can’t say enough about Dr. Kolanz and his team. They made me feel so comfortable. They are fabulous.”