UFE: A Revolutionary Treatment That Makes Fibroids Disappear I Vascular & Interventional Partners


If you are a woman experiencing symptoms such as pelvic pain, pelvic fullness, or heavy menstrual flow, it could indicate the presence of uterine fibroids - noncancerous growths that develop in or on the uterus, typically during a woman's childbearing years. 

These growths can vary in size and number, and while they are often harmless, they can cause discomfort and potentially impact fertility. 

If you are concerned about your symptoms, keep reading to learn about the causes, signs, and treatment options for uterine fibroids.

What Are Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that can develop within the wall of the uterus. These growths, made up of muscle and connective tissues, are typically not cancerous, but they can become large enough to cause abdominal pain or heavy periods. 

Fibroids don’t develop before puberty and can shrink in size or disappear after menopause, so they appear to be linked to estrogen and progesterone levels, two important female reproductive hormones.

Although common, affecting up to one in three women, fibroids can lead to unpleasant symptoms that significantly impact one's quality of life.

Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids can vary in size, number, and severity. They don’t always require treatment, but sometimes they can become large and painful or cause increased bleeding. 

Nearly 80 percent of women may develop uterine fibroids by the age of 50, but most won’t notice any symptoms. For those who do experience the symptoms of uterine fibroids, these might include:

  • Menstrual cycles that progressively become heavier and longer over time
  • Symptoms of anemia, including increased fatigue or dizziness
  • Feelings of fullness or heaviness in the pelvic area
  • Leg or lower back pain
  • Pelvic pressure and bloating, abdominal enlargement, constipation
  • Increased urinary frequency caused by fibroids pressing on the bladder
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Moreover, depending on their size and location within the uterus, fibroids can interfere with conception. One way they can do this is by obstructing the fallopian tubes (which transport eggs from the ovaries to the uterus) or hindering the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterine lining.

Fibroid symptoms can vary depending on the size or number of fibroids and their location. As hormone levels decline during menopause, symptoms may stabilize or disappear completely. 

Consideration of the fibroid's size and location is also important to note - typically, fibroids can be found in three locations within the uterus:

  • Subserosal (in the outer wall of the uterus)
  • Intramural (in the muscular layers of the uterine wall)
  • Submucosal (in the uterine cavity)

What Causes Fibroids to Form?

The exact cause of uterine fibroids is unknown, but they appear to be related to hormone levels. Fibroids can develop or worsen during pregnancy, and many women find relief from their symptoms after menopause as estrogen levels drop. 

Fibroids are more common in women with certain risk factors, such as:

  • Family history of fibroids
  • Between 30 and 40 years of age
  • Pregnant or taking birth control
  • Obesity and a high BMI
  • Early onset of menstruation
  • Poor nutrition or diet
  • African-American descent

Research shows that uterine fibroids are much more common in African-American women and for women with sisters or mothers who have them, too. African-American women are not only more likely to develop fibroids, but they tend to experience more severe symptoms as well. 

Drinking alcohol, a diet high in red meats, and certain vitamin deficiencies can also increase the chances of uterine fibroids. While many of these factors can’t be directly controlled, a healthy lifestyle can help lower the risk of fibroid development.

How Are Uterine Fibroids Treated?

At Vascular & Interventional Partners, we offer patients a minimally invasive treatment option to relieve the symptoms of uterine fibroids: Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). This technique works by depriving fibroids of their blood supply, causing them to shrink. 

UFE is a very effective alternative to more invasive procedures like a hysterectomy or myomectomy, allowing women to achieve a dramatic improvement in fibroid-related symptoms without surgery or significant downtime. 

During uterine fibroid embolization, a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into the hip or wrist artery through a tiny incision in the skin. Fluoroscopic imaging guides the catheter to the uterus, where tiny particles of inert beads are injected into the artery. These will travel into the tiny vessels of the fibroids and block blood flow. 

Without a steady blood supply, the uterine fibroids shrink and die, providing relief from symptoms caused by their presence. This minimally invasive procedure is performed in an outpatient setting and requires no general anesthesia, allowing patients to return home later the same day.

Benefits of Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine fibroid embolization has many advantages over more invasive treatment options. It allows women to achieve a significant reduction in fibroid-related symptoms while preserving the uterus and doesn’t require extensive surgery or downtime. 

“We have a lot of success with this treatment, especially in patients who want to avoid having a major surgery like hysterectomy.” - Dr. Steve Chen, MD

Other benefits of uterine fibroid embolization include the following:

  • Minimally invasive procedure
  • Performed in an outpatient setting
  • Alleviates pain and discomfort
  • No large scars
  • Less risky than traditional surgery
  • Treats multiple fibroids at once
  • Keeps the uterus intact
  • Symptom improvement within three months
  • Improved chances of maintaining fertility

Procedure Expectations and Recovery

UFE blocks the blood supply to fibroids, which then begin to die. This can result in several different symptoms after treatment, including abdominal and pelvic cramping, pain, a low-grade fever, or nausea. 

These symptoms may worsen in the first few days after the procedure and can last for 2-3 weeks. During this recovery period, our doctors will provide medications to control pain, nausea, and inflammation. 

Uterine fibroids begin to shrink after treatment, but it may take several weeks before a noticeable decrease in size is achieved. Most women experience significant symptom relief within just three months. 

Women who previously felt pain or fullness typically report significant improvement. 

Women who previously experienced heavy bleeding typically report significantly less bleeding or no bleeding following treatment. 

This procedure can shrink fibroids by over fifty percent, but the decrease in size may take six months or more, and results may vary from patient to patient. Extremely large fibroids may require surgical removal for optimal results.

FAQs About Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization Safe?

Uterine fibroid embolization is widely accepted worldwide and has been performed safely for more than 25 years. This treatment is safe with minimal risks or side effects, but as with any procedure, there is a possibility of infection, bruising, or bleeding. Uterine fibroid embolization may also disrupt your menstrual cycle or make becoming pregnant more difficult, and a small percentage of women will enter menopause after treatment.

Can I Have This Procedure Done if I Plan on Having More Children?

Yes, but discussion is required. Most pre-menopausal women who undergo fibroid embolization are still able to become pregnant, but some studies have shown slightly decreased fertility rates. If future pregnancy is a concern, talk to a physician at ViP about your treatment options and how they may impact your decision to have children.

How Successful is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

Uterine fibroid embolization is a very effective treatment with a success rate of about 85 to 90 percent. Most women who undergo this procedure notice a dramatic decrease in the size of their fibroids and significantly improved symptoms.

How Long Do the Results Last?

Most women notice relief from their symptoms within several weeks or months after treatment, and studies show good long-term results. Five years after treatment, most women report fewer occurrences of heavy menstrual bleeding, urinary incontinence, and abdominal pain. Although uncommon, fibroids can regrow, so talk to your doctor if your symptoms return.

If you or someone you know could benefit from this innovative treatment, please contact us today!

Read More