Hysterectomy Alternative

By: CBS News
By: CBS News

Hysterectomies are one of the most common surgeries for women. Yet, some experts say many of those who undergo this operation may benefit from a less invasive alternative.

"It's coming off pretty easy..."

Jamie Turner works as a nurse at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. For years, she had such heavy periods that she became anemic and weak. "I was very lethargic because I was bleeding a lot. I had a lot of heavy bleeding. That was one of my biggest problems. And I had a lot of cramping---menstrual cramps."

Jamie had uterine fibroid tumors---non-cancerous growths, which are often removed by hysterectomy. Now, some are being treated in a non-surgical way...in a radiology room under conscious sedation.

The doctor snakes a catheter through a small cut in the groin. He threads the catheter into the uterine artery. Then, he releases tiny plastic spheres into the bloodstream that plug the uterine artery and cut off blood supply. This causes the fibroid to shrink and die.

The beads, made of a material similar to soft contact lenses, stay in the body forever. San Antonio Interventional Radiologist John Thomas performs Uterine Fibroid Embolization at Methodist Hospital. “It can completely control the symptoms of the fibroids and you don't have to have surgery. You don't have to have an organ removed. The recovery is much faster than after a hysterectomy."

Thousands of women have this procedure each year, but many specialists say thousands more could benefit. Jamie is relieved that her symptoms are gone, and she didn't lose weeks of her life recovering from major surgery. "I feel like a whole new person. I can actually do things now and I don't plan my activities around my cycle. I just plan my activity and life my life."

Dr. Thomas says if more doctors mentioned this option, more women would choose it. "If the gynecologist doesn't tell you, ‘Oh, by the way, here's an alternative. You might want to go talk to these physicians who do this,’ then women might not ever know about it.

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