Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe

Women’s health

What is women’s health?

The term “women’s health” refers to conditions specific to the human female anatomy, including menstruation, maternal health and cancers affecting breasts and the female reproductive system.

Interventional radiology procedures can be used to treat a number of these conditions, meaning that some of the common causes of female infertility can now be treated without surgery. Often, these treatments do not require hospitalisation or general anaesthesia and patients can resume their normal activities shortly after the procedure.

Minimally invasive treatments may also be an alternative to procedures such as hysterectomy, meaning that these procedures can help preserve fertility. This page will highlight two minimally invasive treatments for conditions that affect women, but interventional radiology can be used to treat many other conditions.

Interventional radiology can be used to treat blockage of the fallopian tubes, a cause of infertility. The procedure to treat this condition is called fallopian tube recanalisation.

Interventional radiology can also be used to treat fibroids, which cause many women pain and discomfort. Patients with this condition can be treated using a technique called uterine fibroid embolisation.

What are the treatment options available?

Fallopian tube recanalisation is a minimally invasive procedure in which blocked fallopian tubes are re-opened using microcatheters (very fine, flexible plastic tubes that are visible under X-ray) and microguidewires (thin and flexible wires over which a microcatheter can be inserted into the body), which the interventional radiologist places into the vagina and cervix.

The microcatheter is inserted through the fallopian tube over a microguidewire. This clears any blockages in the fallopian tubes and restores the connection between the uterus and the abdominal cavity. This procedure is also used to treat infertility caused by a blockage in the fallopian tubes.

Uterine fibroid embolisation aims to treat fibroids by preventing blood flow to the vessels which supply the fibroids whilst preserving blood flow to the surrounding areas. The interventional radiologist will usually insert a 2-3 mm catheter (tube) into a blood vessel in your groin and will use image guidance to guide the catheter to each uterine artery (right and left). They will then inject microparticles (resin particles smaller than a grain of sand) into the uterine arteries to stop blood flow to the fibroids.

Interventional radiology can be used to ease discomfort and restore fertility for certain conditions. Because these procedures are less invasive than surgery, they carry fewer risks and allow patients to resume normal activity sooner than if they had undergone open surgery.