Embolization Procedure Shrinks Fibroids

Minimally invasive approach relieves symptoms without hysterectomy or ablation risks.

Jody Donnelly

Jody Donnelly was in college studying to be a dental hygienist when one of Brevard County’s top-producing real estate agents approached her with a proposal.

“He said I had a good personality and was really knowledgeable about the community because I grew up here,” Jody remembers. “He suggested I give real estate a try, so I shifted gears, attended real estate school, earned my license and never looked back.

“I’ve been a full-time Realtor in Brevard for 22 years now, and I love what I do. I love guiding people through the purchasing or selling process, and I always have their best interests at heart. I work hard to get my clients the best terms and conditions — top dollar for their property if they’re selling and lowest price if they’re buying.”

Before she settled on real estate, Jody dipped her toes in other fields.

“I’ve had multiple jobs because I’ve been working since I was 14,” she reveals. “Before I became a Realtor, I was a cocktail server on a casino boat out of Cape Canaveral for four years. I loved that job. It was fun.”

Unfortunately, Jody struggled for years with a situation that was anything but fun. During her menstrual cycle, she experienced extremely heavy bleeding and severe cramping that incapacitated her for days. The problem came to a crescendo two years ago.

“The bleeding was so heavy the first two days of my period that I couldn’t even leave the house and go to work,” Jody laments. “I wore a pad and super-plus tampon, but I was changing them out every 30 minutes. The bleeding was so bad it caused me to become anemic.

Anemia is a low level of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the body’s tissues. For women, a normal hemoglobin level is between 12.3 to 15.3 grams per deciliter of blood. Symptoms of anemia include headaches, fatigue and pale skin.

“My hemoglobin level was 5,” Jody says. “I was really depleted. I was tired all the time, too. I slept constantly, and I started looking very pale.

“As time went on, my monthly cycles just got worse, and my periods got even heavier. I had really painful cramps as well. They were so severe that they left me curled up in a ball and crying for two days. So, I brought the problem to the attention of my doctor.”

Jody’s OB-GYN ordered an ultrasound and discovered she had multiple uterine fibroids, which are benign growths in the uterus. The physician recommended a procedure called ablation during which radiofrequency energy is used to burn the fibroids one by one. Jody wasn’t comfortable with that option, so she sought a second opinion.

“I went to another OB-GYN who recommended a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus),” Jody reveals. “I didn’t want to undergo major surgery, either, so I did some research and found a website that described a procedure called uterine fibroid embolization. Wondering if anybody in the area offered it, I did a Google search and found Dr. Dunfee.”

Brian L. Dunfee, MD, is a board-certified vascular and interventional radiologist at Interventional & Vascular Center in Melbourne. He and his partner, board-certified vascular and interventional radiologist Robert J. Kennedy, MD, use minimally invasive, image-guided techniques to treat conditions such as uterine fibroids.

“When I consulted with Dr. Dunfee, he explained that women can bleed severely from an ablation of fibroids,” Jody relates. “It can be very dangerous. I think that’s why the second OB-GYN was pushing the hysterectomy. That’s also why I’m so grateful I found the information about uterine fibroid embolization and Dr. Dunfee.”

Blocked Blood Flow

“Ms. Donnelly came to us in July 2020,” Dr. Dunfee reports. “She had been suffering from heavy bleeding, cramping and chronic anemia for nearly 10 years. Through our examination, we determined she was an excellent candidate for uterine fibroid embolization, which she agreed to move forward with.”

Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive, same-day procedure that can be performed at Interventional & Vascular Center while the patient is under moderate, or twilight, sedation.

“During the procedure, we make a tiny incision into an artery in the groin and insert a small tube, or catheter, into the vascular system,” Dr. Dunfee describes. “Using fluoroscopy guidance, we navigate the catheter through the vascular system and into the uterine arteries, which supply the fibroids as well as the uterus.

“Once we reach the uterine arteries, we inject little gelatin-like beads called Embosphere® Microspheres. These beads settle in the arteries’ capillary beds and block blood flow to the fibroids while still allowing normal flow to the uterus. As the fibroids lose their blood supply, and the oxygen in it, they start to suffocate and shrink, which ultimately relieves symptoms.”

The procedure takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. Afterward, patients are taken to a recovery area for approximately two hours, after which they can go home. They leave with only a little bandage over the incision site in the groin.

“Uterine fibroid embolization is 98 to 99 percent effective at shrinking fibroids without major surgery, major scarring or any of the complications associated with hysterectomy or myomectomy, which is another treatment option for fibroids,” Dr. Dunfee notes.

“Myomectomy involves cutting out the fibroids, but they often regrow. That’s why we believe embolization is the best way to go.”

“I Got My Life Back”

Jody underwent a uterine fibroid embolization performed by Dr. Dunfee in September 2020. The procedure produced the desired result as Jody’s fibroids slowly began to shrink and her bleeding and cramping decreased substantially.

“Today, my cycles are normal … and I have no cramps. The difference is amazing.” – Jody

“Her anemia resolved as well,” Dr. Dunfee concludes. “She was very happy with the ease of the procedure and how it allowed her to avoid undergoing a hysterectomy.”

She’s even happier with the results.

“Today, my cycles are normal,” Jody enthuses. “My periods are so light that I no longer have to miss work because of them. And I have no cramps. The difference is amazing, like night and day. I got my life back. I can’t believe how much this procedure changed my life.”

Jody is equally thrilled with her doctor at Interventional & Vascular Center.

“Dr. Dunfee is the best doctor in the world,” she raves. “I feel like I hit the lotto when I found him. He’s amazing. He makes me feel like family. When my husband and I met him for the consultation, we felt so comfortable with him and confident that he knew his stuff.

“I absolutely, 100 percent recommend Dr. Dunfee to anybody looking to have this procedure because, hands down, he’s the best.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo courtesy of Jody Donnelly. mkb


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