Q&A with Dr Gary Sudwarts01 June 2014
What are uterine fibroids?
We ask Dr Gary Sudwarts, consultant radiologist…
"They’re benign (non-cancerous) growths in the muscular wall of the uterus and a major cause of heavy bleeding, period pain and infertility. If you’re over 35, there’s a 20–40% chance you have them. Many women are advised to have a hysterectomy to control their symptoms.
In some instances, uterine fibroid embolisation (UFE) is an appropriate alternative to hysterectomy. Tiny particles infused into the blood vessels supplying the fibroids starve them of their nutrient supply, so they shrink substantially. Bleeding stops almost immediately and the small incision doesn’t need stitches. In contrast with hysterectomy, the patient usually goes home within a few days and is up and about within a week. Also, in a UFE, the womb remains intact.
There are risks – early menopause, infection, sometimes a repeat of the procedure – but the major complication rate is three times lower than for hysterectomy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says UFE is safe and effective; the UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence says it should be an option for women with symptomatic fibroids. It is only available in major centres in SA."
Working closely with gynaecologists, Dr Sudwarts regularly performs UFE on both private and state-funded patients at UCT Private Academic Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital.