Focused ultrasound for fibroids

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You receive exceptional care and personalized pain management from an expert team. Call to connect with our fibroid experts.

OB/GYN appointments
If you’re looking to review fibroid treatment options with an OB/GYN provider or want a second opinion, please call: 310-794-7274

Radiology appointments
If you already have a provider helping you manage a fibroid condition and are interested in MR-guided high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) or uterine artery embolization (UAE) treatment, please call 310-481-7545.

At UCLA Health, we offer a revolutionary fibroid treatment that pairs MRI with special sound waves called high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). The treatment is called MR-guided HIFU.

While some women with fibroids still need surgery (hysterectomy) to remove their uterus, MR-guided HIFU provides a uterus-sparing alternative. It not only avoids surgery, but also needles and incisions for women who:

  • Have small- or medium-sized fibroids
  • Experience symptoms
  • Have not reached menopause
  • Want to keep the chance to get pregnant

Schedule your appointment with a UCLA interventional radiologist today.

What are the benefits of uterus-sparing therapy with MR-guided HIFU?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved MR-guided HIFU for certain types of fibroids. The treatment works most of the time it’s tried, safely destroying fibroids and relieving symptoms. That said, fibroids can occasionally come back and require additional care (a potential downside of all fibroid treatments except hysterectomy).

The benefits of fibroid ultrasound treatment include:

  • Effective alternative to surgery and medications for fibroids
  • Completely noninvasive — no surgery, no blood loss, no pain during or after the procedure, and fewer side effects
  • No hospital stay and a quick return to normal activities — full recovery possible in hours and, at most, within a few days
  • Preservation of the uterus, cervix and ovaries
  • Significant improvement in quality of life — less menstrual bleeding and relief from urinary problems, pelvic pain and pressure

What types of fibroids can ultrasound treat?

MR-guided HIFU can potentially treat the three main types of fibroids when they are small- or medium-sized. (Learn more about what fibroids are, including the types.) We can treat more than one fibroid during your visit.

To determine whether the treatment is right for you, make an appointment to see one of our interventional radiologists. These doctors specialize in therapy that relies on imaging. You will likely need blood work, a physical exam and an MRI.

Your interventional radiologist will speak to you about your:

  • Symptoms
  • Medical history
  • Treatment goals
  • Overall health

When is fibroid ultrasound not appropriate?

Even when fibroids are the right size for MR-guided HIFU, there are cases when the treatment is not appropriate. Examples include fibroids that are:

  • Pedunculated (hanging from a thin strip called a stalk)
  • Near sensitive organs or other critical body parts (such as the bowels or nerves)
  • Located in an area the sound waves can’t reach
MR Guided Focused Ultrasound procedure

How does HIFU fibroid treatment avoid surgery?

HIFU treatment for fibroids takes place while you lay in a special MRI machine. The machine produces sound waves, which your doctor focuses on one small section of a fibroid. This process is like using a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays on a dry leaf to start a fire.

Targeted areas heat up beyond 100o F. This thermal ablation safely destroys the fibroid while sparing healthy issue nearby. 

Throughout treatment, your doctor can instantly see the temperature at the targeted area. The doctor uses this reading to make sure the target gets hot enough but doesn’t harm other tissue.

Your doctor uses MRI to precisely target each fibroid and ensure it’s destroyed. MRI produces a 3D view without the use of radiation.

What to expect from MR-guided HIFU fibroid treatment

Our team ensures your comfort and safety throughout your ultrasound treatment:

  • Before treatment: We give you a sedative and pain medication to help you relax. We help you get comfortable as you lie down on the treatment table. You can communicate with your team — the interventional radiologist, nurses and technologists — using a microphone and speaker. The doctor tells you when the machine is scanning your body and performing treatment, or sonicating.
  • During treatment: It’s normal to feel a warming sensation in your pelvic region. In the unusual event you feel pain, you can press a safety-stop button to immediately halt treatment. You are conscious the entire time and can provide feedback to your team.


Recovering from MR-guided HIFU

At the end of your treatment, you rest in the clinic for a few hours so the sedative can wear off. You can go home once you’re cleared by the nursing staff. Before you leave, you receive written discharge instructions from your doctor, which may include recommendations for over-the-counter pain relief medication.

Occasionally, women experience some temporary shoulder or back pain from lying on the table. Some also experience cramping, similar to having a menstrual period. Most women can return to work and other activities a day or two after the procedure.