Topics of Interest

Uterine artery embolization for fibroids is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.

Authors: Homer H, Saridogan E.
Journal: Fertil Steril. 2009 Apr 8. [Epub ahead of print]
Study performed at: Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Institute for Women’s Health, University College London Hospitals, London, United Kingdom.

Problem: There are a number of small studies that show either a small risk or no risk for pregnancies conceived after UAE. Small studies are hard to interpret because the statisticians cannot make sense out of small numbers of women. Also, no study has ever compared the results to women with similar fibroids who had not been treated.

Study: These authors combined the results of many already-published studies and analyzed the information as if it was one, larger study (called a meta-analysis). They compared the results of 227 women who got pregnant after UAE with 4,454 women who were the same ages and who had similar fibroids, but who had not been treated before they got pregnant.

Results: Miscarriage rates were higher in UAE pregnancies (35.2%) compared with women who had fibroids but no treatment fibroid (16.5%). The women who had UAE before their pregnancies were also more likely to experience excessive bleeding after delivery (13.9% after UAE vs. 2.5% in women with fibroids but no treatment). There were no differences in the rates of early delivery, underweight babies, or breech babies.

Conclusions: For women who get pregnant after UAE, the risk of miscarriage and the risk of excessive bleeding after delivery seem to be greater.

Dr. Parker’s Comments: While studies with just a few women are hard to interpret, a study such as this (meta-analysis) isn’t perfect either. Since the authors never see ANY of the women in the outside studies, it is possible that differences in the separate groups of women were present, but not reported in the original articles. Nevertheless, since it is unlikely that any interventional radiologist will have 227 women in their practice who will get pregnant after UAE, this kind of study may be the best information we can get.
Most interventional radiologists in the US advise women not to get pregnant after UAE. This advice is given not because they know that UAE causes harm during pregnancy, but mostly because there is not enough experience with UAE and pregnancy to tell women everything should be OK. For now, that advice is likely to stay the same as before.

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