Key points to remember
- A study shows that from 2006 to 2017, there was an increase in emergency room visits among women with fibroids.
- These non-cancerous masses in the lining of the uterus can cause heavy bleeding.
- The researchers hypothesize that patients come to the emergency department because they haven’t established long-term relationships with providers who can help them manage their fibroids.
More and more people are coming to the emergency room with symptoms of fibroids, such as pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. But research shows that these visits could be avoided with regular care and checkups.
According to a new study published in the Green Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the number of emergency room visits made by women for fibroids increased from 28,732 in 2006 to 65,685 in 2017.sese
While research has found that the number of emergency room visits has increased, the admission rate for people with fibroids in 2017 declined to 11.1% from 23.9% in 2006.sese
The researchers say this drop in hospital admissions suggests visits for fibroids could have been treated in an alternative, non-urgent setting.
“When we look at the overall low percentage of admitted patients, this suggests that a large number of these visits can be handled on an outpatient basis with a trusted provider,” study co-author Erica E. Marsh, MD, MSCI, FACOG, S. Jan Behrman, college professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, says Verywell.
Why are emergency room visits increasing?
Fibroids are benign, non-cancerous masses or tumors found in the lining of the uterus, according to Marsh. These masses vary in size from the size of a seed to the size of a watermelon.
“We don’t know why [fibroids] develop, “says Marsh. What is known is that fibroids can” increase the overall size of the uterus and cause increased period bleeding. ”
In some cases, it is this bleeding that causes people to seek medical attention. The results of the study indicate that although many people with fibroids end up going to the emergency room, they do not end up being hospitalized for the disease.
The researchers analyzed more than 487 million emergency room visits by women aged 18 to 55 made between 2006 and 2017. They specifically looked at access to fibroid care and emergency room use for the treatment of fibroids. symptoms of fibroids.sese
The study found that emergency department visits were most common among low-income women aged 36 to 45.
Although the study specifically looked at women with fibroids, the disease can affect anyone with a uterus.
Marsh points out several factors to help explain the trend of emergency department visits among people with fibroids.
“One of the concerns is that the patients did not have a relationship with a female health care provider that would allow them to treat their fibroid symptoms, and in an environment of trust,” she says. “One of the other challenges is that they may not have that relationship with the supplier because of the lack of assurance.”
Even if they have insurance, people might not know where to turn for treatment. “Some patients may simply not understand that this is a gynecological problem and that they should contact an OB-GYN or other women’s health care provider,” says Marsh.
It is difficult to diagnose fibroids
Fibroids can be difficult to diagnose because they often don’t cause any symptoms: only 25-50% of people with them have symptoms, such as pelvic pain or heavy bleeding.sese
If these symptoms are severe, a person’s worry may cause them to go to the emergency room despite the fact that the location is not ideal for fibroid care.
Marsh says emergency room doctors usually don’t have the time to fully counsel patients about treatment options for uterine fibroids – a specialist would be more likely to help.
“Obstetricians and gynecologists undergo specific training that allows us to counsel patients on their fibroid treatment options,” says Marsh. “Which includes medical, surgical and interventional radiology treatments.”
In addition to the fast-paced environment of an emergency room, visits tend to be expensive: Emergency room care for fibroids is 10 times more expensive than care in an emergency care clinic.sese
What it means for you
If you have symptoms of uterine fibroids such as heavy bleeding and pelvic pain, you should contact a healthcare provider or OB-GYN to seek treatment. This can be a more affordable option than paying for an expensive emergency room visit.
Delayed diagnosis and treatment
Alexis May Kimble, DO, a doctor doubly certified in gynecology and female pelvic medicine based in California, tells Verywell that untreated fibroids can have long-term health consequences.
“When fibroids are not diagnosed, misdiagnosed, or not treated properly, patients may experience benign tumor growth and worsening symptoms associated with pain or heavy bleeding,” Kimble explains.
According to Marsh, fibroids can also cause:
- Pelvic pain
- Lower back pain
- Painful intercourse
- Urinary frequency
“The symptoms that [fibroids] The cause largely depends on their location in the lining of the uterus and their size, ”says Marsh.
Lack of equitable access to fibroid care
For people with fibroids, Marsh emphasizes the importance of the patient-provider relationship for access to care.
“When a patient has a relationship with their provider, they know the provider,” says Marsh. “He’s talking to someone who he thinks knows him and cares about them. Patients are receiving the right care at the right time. ”
And while fibroids are the most common benign gynecologic condition in the United States, they have a disproportionate impact on patients of specific racial and ethnic backgrounds.
“We know there is a higher prevalence of fibroids in women of African descent than in women of European descent,” says Marsh.
About 80% of African American women will have fibroids by the age of 50. They are also two to three times more likely to have a hysterectomy for fibroids than other racial groups.sese
Marsh stresses the need for more nationwide campaigns that educate people about fibroids and how they can be treated.
“A lot of people don’t know about fibroids and that they are the main cause of heavy menstrual bleeding,” Marsh adds. “So I think one thing we can do is really help educate people about their bodies, and what is normal and what is not so that individuals can be empowered to see health care providers. health care.”