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What is a Fibroid Ultrasound?

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  • Written By: Denise Reynolds
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 29 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A fibroid ultrasound is a diagnostic tool typically used for locating or treating uterine fibroid tumors, also called leiomyomas or myomas. Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow within the muscle tissue of the uterus. It is estimated that between 20 and 50 percent of women in their childbearing years have uterine fibroids. Some women do not experience any symptoms, but if the tumor is large or if there are multiple tumors growing inside the uterine wall, the most common signs include heavy and prolonged menstrual periods, pelvic pain or pressure, and an enlarged or bloated abdomen.

Initial discovery of a fibroid tumor typically is confirmed with an ultrasound in the office of a physician. The equipment is the same used to view a fetus during pregnancy. A probe usually is placed on the abdomen and high-frequency, low-intensity waves are transmitted that provide an image of the fibroid on a bedside monitor. In some cases, a vaginal probe may provide an enhanced picture of the uterus.

An MR-guided fibroid ultrasound (MRgFUS) can be performed as an outpatient procedure to treat uterine fibroid tumors. The treatment is non-invasive. Recovery time typically is shorter than after a surgical procedure such as a hysterectomy or myomectomy.

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During the procedure, high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) waves are emitted from a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, usually destroying the tumor without affecting the uterine tissue surrounding the fibroid. The high-energy waves heat the tumor for a pulse of about 15 seconds, which then is repeated about 50 times during the procedure. Most procedures can last up to 3 hours, depending on the size of the tumors and how many tumors are present.

Risks of adverse side effects from the treatment have not been calculated. The most common risks are burns, nerve damage, and recurrence of the fibroid tumor. Other issues with a fibroid ultrasound might include limited access to the procedure and a high price tag, which may not be covered by health insurance. ExAblate is the only FDA-approved MR-guided fibroid ultrasound treatment available in the United States. InSightec Ltd, the company that developed ExAblate, reports that three published papers have found the treatment to be safe and effective for uterine fibroid tumors.

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