• Report

Management of uterine fibroids: An update of the evidence


Viswanathan, M., Hartmann, K., McKoy, N., Stuart, G., Rankins, N., Thieda, P., ... Lohr, K. (2007). Management of uterine fibroids: An update of the evidence. (Prepared by RTI International–University of North Carolina Evidencebased Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02-0016. AHRQ Publication No. 07-E011.; No. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment, Number 154). Rockville, MD: Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).


Objectives: The RTI International-University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Evidence-based Practice Center (RTI-UNC EPC) systematically updated evidence on the management of uterine fibroids, specifically incidence and prevalence of fibroids, treatment outcomes, comparisons of treatment, modifiers of outcomes, and costs.

Data Sources: We searched MEDLINE®, Cochrane Collaboration resources, and Embase.

Review Methods: We included studies published in English from February 2000 through August 2006. We excluded studies with low sample size (based on study design, cases series <100 and cohorts <40) or lack of relevance to uterine fibroids. Of 107 included studies, 3 were good quality, 56 fair, and 48 poor.

Results: The cumulative incidence by age 50 is 70 percent to 80 percent; black women are more likely to get fibroids at younger ages. Appearance of new fibroids and growth of existing fibroids after treatment are poorly studied. Trials of preoperative medical management indicate that treatment reduces fibroid volume but do not provide sufficient evidence of improvement in important operative outcomes. When women are treated for reasons other than symptom relief, such as when pregnancy is desired, weak evidence supports treating submucous fibroids via hysteroscopy.

No well-conducted trials in U.S. populations directly compared treatment options, including the option of expectant management, or followed women to determine whether the intervention met their treatment objectives. Common procedures such as hysterectomy and myomectomy, including choice among types of myomectomy, still cannot be meaningfully compared. Studies comparing uterine artery embolization (UAE) with other procedures reported procedure time and length of stay favoring UAE, but inconsistency of the direction of effect for complications and absence of key information on longer-term outcomes suggest that this evidence base is inadequate to comment on the relative risks and benefits of UAE versus hysterectomy or myomectomy.

Costs of fibroid treatment, despite shorter average lengths of stay, are rising.

Conclusions: The dearth of high-quality evidence supporting the effectiveness of most interventions for uterine fibroids is remarkable, given how common this problem is. The current state of the literature does not permit definitive conclusions about benefit, harm, or relative costs to help guide women's choices. Significant research gaps include well-conducted trials in U.S. populations that directly compare interventions on short- and, especially, long-term outcomes, studies on therapeutics for medical management, and information on treatment decisions for women who desire a pregnancy.