Treatment shrink fibroids, stops heavy periods

At 51, Linda Nordahl finally feels good again, on the other side of years of really heavy periods that hijacked Marietta massage therapist's energy, and her life.

"Bleeding excessively, we're talking every hour, changing a pad," Nordahl says.

Nordahl lost so much blood over time, she became so anemic, she couldn't catch her breath and felt like she had asthma. In July of 2017, she was hospitalized, and doctors finally found the problem.
Nordahl had fibroids, or benign muscle growths in her uterus, causing not just her heavy cycles, but cramping and pain. Medications like hormones and ibuprofen are typically the first treatment for fibroids.
But Nordahl was in severe pain.

"On a scare form 0 to 10, I would put it an 8 or 9," she says.

She briefly considered surgery to remove her uterus.

"At first, it was go ahead, take it, cut it out, I want it over with," Nordahl says. "Do it with a hysterectomy. But, I realized I'm not ready to lose body parts."

So Nordahl found another option. For 20 years, interventional radiologist Dr. John Lipman, the Medical Director of the Atlanta Interventional Institute has been treating women with severe fibroid symptoms with a minimally-invasive procedure, known as uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE.

"The patients we see are usually very symptomatic," Dr. Lipman says. "Because, largely, they don't want surgery. They don't want to lose their uterus, and I don't blame them."

In a cath lab, Dr. Lipman inserted a thin tube through an artery in Nordahl's groin, then injected tiny particles into each of the arteries feeding her fibroids.

"I can flow-direct these little tiny particles that cut the blood supply off to every fibroid in the uterus," Lipman explains. "So, without a blood supply, the fibroids will soften and shrink. And, as they do, a woman's symptoms disappear."

Dr. Lipman says about 95 percent of his patients get relief from bleeding and pain.

And, he says, the recovery time with UFE is about 2 weeks, compared to 4 to 6 weeks recovery time for a hysterectomy. A year after Linda's procedure, no more heavy periods.

"No issues, no symptoms," Nordahl says. "I don't have the pain that I did. The blood loss is greatly reduced."

Because it's not yet clear whether UFE affects a woman's fertility, a woman planning to have children in the future should talk to their doctor about other options for treating fibroids.