Uterine Fibroid Embolization

The South Florida Sun Sentinel

Non-invasive Treatment Helps New Mom In Trouble. Doctor Uses Rare Procedure to stop Bleeding, Save Uterus

Venus Tenerife couldn't wait to thank Dr. William Julien for her first Mother's Day with her husband and new baby. She almost didn't make it.

"I really didn't get a chance to talk to him the first time I saw him and thank him for all he did for me," said Tenerife, 34. "I definitely owe him a lot."

After 11 hours in labor on Easter Sunday, the Coconut Creek woman delivered a healthy 71/2-pound son, Justin Thomas, at Northwest Regional Medical Center in Margate.

But then she had complications -- life-threatening bleeding from her uterus.

"I was really scared when they told me what was happening," she said. "I could see all the commotion that was happening around me. I realized it could be serious and I could lose my uterus."

As time passed and the bleeding didn't stop, her obstetrician Dr. Tara Solomon was faced with two choices, begin a hysterectomy to remove the damaged uterus or call for a rare procedure that could stop the bleeding and save the uterus without Tenerife having to go through surgery.

The minimally invasive procedure, called uterine artery embolization, seals off the blood flow with a jellylike substance thinned to a slurry that's delivered into the bleeding artery inside the uterus by a tiny catheter. The substance eventually disappears.

Solomon called in Dr. Julien, an interventional radiologist, who alerted his team and rushed to the hospital. He has an endovascular surgery practice, the South Florida Vascular Associates, with offices adjacent to Northwest Medical Center.

"The procedure is rare. We probably only get one or two calls like this a year," Julien said. "When the call comes, you have to arrive with your game face on and ready to go. It's an emergency situation, like a fire drill, where the patient is in danger of dying.

"This is a case where you have got to get moving faster than almost any other situation. You are worried about the patient, the mother of a brand-new baby who potentially may not be around. It's pretty scary for a baby not having its mother."

By the time Julien arrived, Tenerife was in trouble.

"Her blood pressure had dropped, they were giving her transfusions, and they were thinking they might have to start the hysterectomy."

In a specially equipped operating room in the hospital, Julien used imaging equipment to steer the catheter through a tiny incision where the material was injected, and the bleeding was stopped.

For Tenerife, a physical therapist at Woodlake Nursing Rehabilitation Home in West Palm Beach, all Mother's Days from now on will be special.

"I feel very grateful. I am so lucky to have another chance to have a baby," Tenerife said. "I feel so great and thankful for everything they did to save me."

The next day, when Julien made his rounds and saw Tenerife and baby Justin, he said he was nervous until he saw for himself that the procedure was effective.

"It's always a scary period until you see the results. It's most gratifying to see a mom caressing her baby as she was, " he said."I can't express the words right now," Tenerife said, "but telling the doctor is really something that is easy and I have to do."

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