What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization, is a minimally invasive treatment for uterine fibroids. A doctor uses a small flexible tube (catheter) to inject tiny particles into the uterine arteries, which supply blood to your fibroids. The goal is to block tiny vessels that lead to your fibroids, starve the fibroids and cause them to die. Without their blood supply, the fibroids shrink and painful symptoms are alleviated. Ideal candidates for this procedure include women with symptomatic fibroids who wish to avoid surgical intervention and are looking for an alternative treatment of their fibroids. These symptoms included heavy bleeding, pain with menstruation, constipation and bloating. UFE patients also enjoy a high chance of preserving fertility. The hospital stay is usually only 24hrs and the patient will usually recover from the procedure within a few days.
Who Performs Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Interventional radiologists usually perform uterine embolization. Interventional Radiology, is a sub-specialty of radiology that uses minimally invasive image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat diseases in nearly every organ system in the body. Interventional radiologists diagnose and treat patients using the least invasive techniques currently available in order to minimize risk to the patient and improve health outcomes.
How is Uterine Fibroid Embolization Performed?
Uterine fibroid embolization is performed with a small catheter (2 mm in diameter) inserted into the femoral artery at the level of the groin under local anesthesia. Under imaging guidance, the interventional radiologist will enter selectively into both uterine arteries and inject small (sub-mm) particles that will block the blood supply to the fibroids. The UAE procedure results in limited blood supply to the fibroids, which prevents further growth and heavy bleeding. For more information on how is uterine fibroid embolization performed, request a consultation here.
What are the Risk Factors for Uterine Embolization?
Uterine embolization is a procedure that has been practiced for well over two decades, and studies have shown that a high percentage of women find long-term relief of fibroid symptoms after UFE. Still, not all women are good candidates for this procedure, and there are certain risk factors for uterine embolization. A comprehensive understanding of the treatment options, risks and expected outcomes is essential in making a decision about the management of your condition. Uterine artery embolization is a well-practiced procedure among interventional radiologists associated with few complications.
Consultation with Fibroid Care does not require a physician referral.
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Major complications are rare. These may include:
Infection. A degenerating fibroid can provide a site for bacterial growth and lead to infection of the uterus (endomyometritis). Many uterine infections can be treated with antibiotics, but in extreme cases, infection may require a hysterectomy.
Damage to other organs. Unintended embolization of another organ or tissue could lead to serious illness. Even when embolization is performed correctly, damage to the ovaries can occur. This could result in your periods stopping — this is rare if you’re aged 40 or younger and more common if you’re aged 50 or older at the time of the procedure.
Women can and do have healthy pregnancies following uterine artery embolization.
Incomplete embolization. Occasionally uterine artery embolization needs to be repeated on the same fibroids to block small vessels that may have grown in the period after the first procedure. Follow-up procedures such as this are now a rare occurrence as the technology and procedural techniques have advanced to make the primary procedure curative.
Not all patients are suited to uterine artery embolization as an ideal treatment for their fibroids. There are specific contraindications to the performing of this procedure:
Do not undergo uterine artery embolization if you have:
• A history of pelvic radiation
• Possible pelvic cancer
• An active, recent or chronic pelvic infection
• Poorly controlled diabetes
• Inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis)
• A bleeding disorder
• A severe allergy to contrast material containing iodine
Am I A Candidate for Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Discuss uterine artery embolization with your gynecologist, primary care doctor or an interventional radiologist. Contact us for more information via email, Facebook or complete the contact form on the right.
What Patients Say
The result for me is I don’t feel tired anymore. I feel younger than I was then. I have far more energy and a flatter looking tummy. It’s been just over a year now. My fibroid is still there but it is a lot smaller and lighter
Before UFE, during my cycle I would bleed for 10 days. But after UFE I only bled for 3-4 days and significantly less. All the other symptoms I experienced before had improved as soon as three months. I had so much energy afterward. I even started running—it was that drastic
I was thrilled to find an option other than major surgery to solve my problems with fibroids. Better yet was the fact that my recovery was days, not weeks. I missed only one day of work and was swimming even before returning to work. As time passes, I continue to be thankful for this procedure and for Dr Lawson being there throughout the embolization as well as for his continuing follow ups.