One woman in 3, and 1 in every 2 black women, will develop the benign tumors of the uterus called fibroids. Until recently, when the tumors grew too large, or caused pain or bleeding, all that could be done was to perform a hysterectomy and remove the uterus. Or doctors could perform another operation called a myomectomy, which might or might not leave the woman able to bear children.

But an increasing number of hospitals and medical centers are using a new technique called uterine artery embolization, UAE for short, which kills the tumors and leaves the womb intact.

Dr. Linda Hughes, an interventional radiologist at the Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute, said it has been successful in 90 percent of the approximately 100 operations she and Dr. James Benenati have performed there in the last year and a half.

“And I tell my patients,” Hughes said, “that if it doesn’t work, we haven’t burned any bridges. There can always be surgery if UAE hasn’t done the job.”

At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a similar effect is being obtained using super-cold to freeze the tumors, a procedure performed with the help of a new kind of magnetic resonance imaging machine. Doctors Patrick Sewell and Bryan D. Cowan performed the second such operation in medical history there Friday. Cowan said the first one, done on March 16, so far seems to have been very successful.

General Electric manufactures the imaging machines. So far, there are only four of them in the United States.

UAE, as it is done at the Miami Cardiac and Vascular Institute and a growing number of other institutions, begins with a tiny nick in the patient’s groin. Then, guided by X-ray, the doctor inserts a catheter into the femoral artery, up to the uterus and into an artery that supplies blood to the tumor. Next, small bits of plastic are injected into that artery, blocking it. Deprived of nourishment, the tumor begins to shrink, and the body naturally eliminates the tumor’s remains.

After overnight observation, the patients go home with only a bandage on the incision. In some institutions, the operation is an outpatient procedure and the women are back home the same day.

Hughes said fibroid tumors are almost never malignant and do not usually need to be removed unless they are causing pain or bleeding, or have grown too large. Some, she said, can reach the size of a basketball and make a woman look four or five months pregnant. Besides bleeding and pain, the tumors can cause constipation and difficulties with urination. UAE can shrink even basketball-size tumors by 40 percent to 80 percent — to the size of a grapefruit.

An operation called a myomectomy is sometimes performed to remove a tumor without removing the uterus. Hughes said it can succeed, but can also leave scar tissue in the womb that can interfere with normal childbirth. Thirty percent of myomectomy cases do not fully recover, perhaps because the tumor has not been fully dissected out of the uterine walls, and begins to grow again.

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