Women can learn about different methods available to treat uterine fibroids and the pros and cons of a relatively new nonsurgical procedure called uterine artery embolization in a seminar at Washington Hospital Center this week.

Keith Horton, an interventional radiologist at the Hospital Center and one of the seminar's presenters, says women with fibroids -- benign tumors in the uterus -- often experience irregular menstrual cycles with extremely heavy bleeding, severe pelvic pain, cramps and frequent urination.

Horton says many women with fibroids have hysterectomies (surgery to remove the uterus) or myomectomies (surgery to remove fibroids that leaves the uterus intact).

Uterine artery embolization is a minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter is inserted into the femoral artery in the groin. Tiny plastic particles released through the catheter lodge in the vessels that feed the fibroid, cutting off its blood supply. Fibroids then wither away over the next three to six months.

Horton says most women he has worked with find relief after having the procedure, but he warns that women of childbearing age may have more difficulty conceiving after the procedure.

Horton notes that uterine artery embolization is not especially well understood because the procedure has only been performed widely for the last three or four years. He adds that while it is possible that fibroids might grow back after the embolization procedure, most women would rather do it twice than undergo one of the more invasive forms of surgery.

Uterine Fibroids Seminar, Nov. 23, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Washington Hospital Center, 100 Irving St. NW. To register, call 202-877-6301.

-- Diane Knich

In uterine artery embolization, plastic particles released through a catheter into the femoral artery starve fibroids, which then die.