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Sonata vs UFE: Which Should I Choose?

Posted on November 17, 2020

If you want to treat uterine fibroids without surgery, you have two options Sonata vs UFE (uterine fibroid embolization). Today, choosing UFE, uterine fibroid embolization, is not that unusual. This has been a proven alternative to hysterectomy since 1994, almost 10 years before Condoleeza Rice chose this fibroid treatment option. At that time, UFE was a relatively new fibroid treatment method. Nonetheless, Ms. Rice chose this minimally-invasive procedure—and publicized her decision to help other women understand their options.

Today, Sonata is the new minimally invasive fibroid treatment. But, unlike UFE, this option can't address all fibroids. That's why our Houston area fibroid specialists are sticking with UFE. And helping you understand the differences between Sonata vs UFE.


Sonata vs UFE: Avoiding Fibroid Surgery

Back in 2004, 30% of hysterectomies in the U.S. were performed on women with fibroids. And, at that same time, only 13,000 women each year opted for fibroid embolization—after all, it was first performed by French doctors in 1995, so it was relatively new less than a decade later.

Even so, Ms. Rice made a bold choice and, after just a one night hospital stay, was able to successfully treat her fibroids with UFE. The procedure itself lasted just an hour and a half. She was treated on a Friday and back to work on Monday.

Now, hearing that a somewhat-new fibroid treatment worked well may tempt you to try Sonata. But, before you head in that direction, let's check out the difference between the two minimally invasive fibroid treatments.

What is UFE?

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) cuts off blood supply to the tumor, slowing their growth and ultimately shrinking the fibroid. As a result, with UFE, you can target large and small tumors. Plus, we can treat your fibroids regardless of their location. And we can treat them all at once, instead of putting you through multiple procedures. Finally, UFE can also provide relief from adenomyosis, a painful condition that can be hard to diagnose and treat.

But wait, there's more good news! In our Houston fibroids practice, we now use trans-radial access for UFE, which means we treat your fibroids through the radial artery in your left wrist. Unlike the early days, when Ms. Rice had UFE and the femoral artery provided treatment access, our method has fewer complications and is less painful. It also means that our patients can sit up and walk right after the procedure, UFE recovery times are typically quicker than alternative procedures. In other words, this is a tried-and-true fibroid treatment that provides a safe and effective alternative to fibroid surgery. Now let's explore the alternative.

What is Sonata?

The Sonata Treatment is an incision-free option for treating uterine fibroids. Like UFE, Sonata uses ultrasound-guided treatment. But, unlike UFE, Sonata targets individual fibroids with radiofrequency. This does not cut off blood flow to the area, so the tumors have to be treated individually. And that's a major problem, since most women with fibroids have 10-15 growths. Meaning Sonata would take too long to treat all your fibroids, and is thus not a viable option.

Plus, because of the delivery method, Sonata is most effective for small fibroids, but may not work well for larger fibroids. Also, when you use Sonata, doctors have to leave a rim of fibroid intact—so you're never 100% free of fibroids. That's why many patients come to our office, asking for UFE, when their fibroid symptoms don't improve after Sonata treatment.

Still, like UFE, Sonata is minimally invasive. So, if you choose this option, you can return to normal activities the next day. And, when used for small fibroids, results showed that most women were satisfied with their results. And did not need repeat interventions one year following their procedure. In the longer term, however, the results don't look great. In fact, over 50% of women who choose sonata vs UFE have a recurrence at the five year mark. Meaning more symptoms, more pain, and a return to the treatment table. 

Choosing Sonata vs UFE

Back in 2004, UFE was a cutting-edge procedure for Condoleeza Rice—but it spent the next 16 years just getting better. In contrast, Sonata is today's new fibroid treatment option. Yet, unlike UFE, this option has limits on its effectiveness. Now, it may get better as time progresses. And specialists hone their treatment approaches. But, today, our fibroid specialists are aware of Sonata's limitations. Which is why, when you're choosing between Sonata vs UFE, we recommend sticking with the treatment with a proven track record. And we invite you to schedule a consultation in our office, to see if you're a good candidate for UFE!

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