March 8, 2019

Women Discover Fibroids Cure at UAMS

Bridget Dooley

Bridget Dooley

Nathalie Massanelli

Nathalie Massanelli

Fibroids caused Nathalie Massanelli, 39, of Little Rock, to lose so much blood each month that she became anemic and afraid to go out in public.

For Bridget Dooley, 44, of Hot Springs, the pain from fibroids was too much to bear.

“It would start hurting a week before my menstrual period and just got worse,” Bridget said.

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus that affect up to 50 percent of women, but many are unaware that they have fibroids because they often cause no symptoms. When asymptomatic, fibroids generally do not require any treatment at all. However, many women suffer from abnormally heavy bleeding or constant lower abdominal pressure and pain.

For women like Nathalie and Bridget, the medical options have been limited.

Bridget had a grapefruit-sized fibroid surgically removed 12 years ago, but the fibroid grew back, as they usually do.

Nathalie discovered that she had multiple fibroids and was told incorrectly by two gynecologists that the only solution was complete removal of the uterus – a hysterectomy – the standard treatment until about 10 years ago. But after doing her own research, Massanelli discovered that there was a less radical, fertility-saving solution at UAMS.

The solution was a uterine fibroid embolization. This minimally invasive procedure is performed by an interventional radiologist who reaches the fibroids with a catheter that’s guided through the arteries. The catheter releases tiny particles that permanently block blood flow to the fibroids, causing the fibroids to shrink and the pain, heavy bleeding and other symptoms to go away.

Each of the women was able to go home after an overnight stay.

“UAMS did this procedure and the next month when my cycle came, I did not know it,”Bridget said of her February 2008 fibroid embolization. “I had an MRI in April this year and the fibroids are gone.”

Nathalie had the procedure in March and wants to spread the word about its success.

“The embolization won’t keep me from getting pregnant, although I don’t have any plans for another child right now,” she said. “I think it’s important that more women know about it.”