Women suffering from uterine fibroids (noncancerous tumors that grow in the uterus) might benefit from a new tool that can predict how a fibroid will grow within the next year. How does the tool work? It measures the vascular index of the fibroid, or, in simpler terms, it measures how many blood vessels are feeding the fibroid.
The usefulness of the vascular index in determining how much a fibroid would grow in the next year was evaluated by researchers at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.1 The study, which took place between March 2012 and March 2014, examined the changes in the fibroids of 66 women who did not receive treatment for their fibroids over the course of one year.1
In particular, the study used a Doppler to take a 3D ultrasound of the women’s fibroids. This technology allowed researchers to see the blood flow that each fibroid was receiving. Participants received these ultrasounds at the start, and at 3, 6, and 12 months into the study.
The researchers found that fibroids grew at an average rate of 8.9 percent. However, they also found that fibroids that were more vascularized grew at a rate of 10.5 percent. Every 1 percent increase in a fibroid’s vascular index translated into a 7-cm larger fibroid by the time one year had passed.1
This research is valuable information for women dealing with uterine fibroids. Because symptoms of fibroids can be severe, including heavy bleeding, pelvic pain and pressure, and infertility, it is important for women to receive the most effective treatment for their particular fibroid. Knowing how fast a patient’s fibroid will grow can help doctors to choose this treatment.
For example, minimally invasive procedures, such as uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) might be most effective for vascularized fibroids, because UFE works by cutting off blood flow to the fibroid. On the other hand, less vascularized fibroids might not respond as well to this type of procedure.2
In addition, fast-growing fibroids can be treated aggressively, with medication, before they have the chance to impair fertility or cause other issues.2 Even nonsymptomatic fibroids can be evaluated for their growth rate in order to develop follow-up care for the patient.2
This study is a promising start toward getting a more accurate look at fibroids and, therefore, selecting the best treatment for patients.
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- Nieuwenhuis, L. L., Keizer, A. L., Stoelinga, B., et al. (2017). Fibroid vascularisation assessed with three-dimensional power Doppler ultrasound is a predictor for uterine fibroid growth: A prospectie cohort study. BJOG2017. doi: 1111/1471-0528.14608.
- Dueholm, M. (2017). Fibroid vascularisation as a predictor for uterine fibroid growth. BJOG, May 9. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.14727.