“Uterine Fibroid Embolization versus Hysterectomy: Understanding Your Options” I Vascular and Interventional Partners


Fibroids might be benign, but their impact on your life doesn't feel that way. Whether it's the pain, the heavy menstrual bleeding, or the constant discomfort, finding the right treatment can change everything.

At Vascular and Interventional Partners in Arizona, we specialize in providing minimally invasive, image-guided treatments for a variety of conditions, including uterine fibroids. And one of the most frequently asked questions we get is “what are the best treatment options for uterine fibroids?” 

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) and Hysterectomy are the two most common paths to relieve, each has its unique benefits depending on your health needs and goals. But before we dive into these treatment options, let’s first get to know a little bit more about fibroids themselves. 

What Are Uterine Fibroids? 

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the uterus, commonly seen in women during their reproductive years. Despite their benign nature, fibroids can significantly affect a woman's quality of life. 

They vary greatly in size - some are so small they cannot be seen by the human eye, while others can be large enough to alter the uterus's shape. While the exact cause of fibroids is still unknown, factors like hormonal imbalances, genetic changes, and other growth factors are believed to play a role. 

Estrogen and progesterone, hormones produced by the ovaries. have also been linked to fibroids - in these cases, the growths tend to shrink after menopause when hormone production decreases.

Common FAQs about uterine fibroids center on their symptoms, impact on fertility, and treatment options. Symptoms can range from heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods, pelvic pain, frequent urination, to constipation, and backache. However, many women with fibroids experience no symptoms at all. 

Regarding fertility, while most women with fibroids do not face difficulties getting pregnant, certain types of fibroids can affect fertility and pregnancy. Treatment varies depending on symptom severity, the size and location of the fibroids, and the patient's desire for future pregnancies, ranging from medication to manage symptoms to surgical options for removal.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization: A Minimally-Invasive Approach

One of our key specialties here at VIP is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), a procedure celebrated for its effectiveness and minimal recovery time. UFE works by targeting the fibroids directly through a catheter inserted into the artery supplying the fibroid. Tiny particles are then released to block the fibroid's blood supply, causing it to shrink and gradually die. This process significantly reduces the symptoms associated with fibroids, offering patients a highly effective alternative to surgical treatments.

The recovery time for UFE is one of its most appealing aspects, with most patients able to return to their normal activities in a matter of days. This is considerably shorter than the recovery period for traditional surgery, such as hysterectomy, which can take several weeks. 

Success rates for UFE are also encouraging, with the majority of patients experiencing substantial symptom relief. In clinical studies, up to 90% of women treated with UFE reported significant or complete resolution of their symptoms.

Benefits of UFE

At Vascular and Interventional Partners, we are dedicated to ensuring our patients receive the highest standard of care, and we believe UFE represents a premier option for women seeking relief from uterine fibroids.

  • Minimally Invasive: No surgery means shorter hospital stays and faster recovery.

  • High Success Rates: Most patients experience significant improvement in symptoms.

  • Uterus Preservation: Offers a fertility-preserving alternative to hysterectomy.

  • Reduced Complications: Lower risk of complications compared to surgical options.

  • Short Recovery Time: Most patients resume normal activities within a week. 

How Does It Work?

UFE is a non-surgical procedure performed for the treatment of uterine fibroids. It is also known as uterine artery embolization and is usually recommended when large fibroids cause abnormal menstrual bleeding and/or pain.

Like all embolization procedures, UFE works by blocking blood flow to the affected area. During the procedure, your doctor uses fluoroscopy (a type of continuous x-ray imaging) to guide a catheter with embolic (blocking) agents to the fibroids. Embolic agents — which can be permanent or temporary — cut off blood supply to the fibroids and cause them to shrink. 

UFE is usually performed in a cath lab under moderate sedation and using local anesthetics. Some patients may require general anesthesia. A tiny skin puncture in the upper thigh is all that is needed for the entire procedure, which allows for quick recovery and significantly reduces the risk of post-surgery infections. 

Preparing for Uterine Fibroid Embolization

During an appointment at our Phoenix clinic, we will provide you with detailed instructions on how to prepare for your procedure. We will take a look at your medical history and perform testing to see if you are healthy enough to undergo this particular treatment. We will also perform an MRI or ultrasound scan of your pelvis to help assess the location, size, and number of uterine fibroids.

In the days to weeks preceding your scheduled procedure, you will need to stop taking medications and supplements that thin the blood, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), warfarin, vitamin E, and certain herbal supplements. This is necessary to help minimize bleeding.

On the night before your procedure, you should not eat or drink anything past midnight. Having an empty stomach before treatment involving anesthesia is necessary to prevent food or liquid from accidentally getting into your lungs. Patients should plan to stay in the clinic for a couple of hours, but will be able to go home same-day!

When to Consider a Hysterectomy

While we advocate for minimally invasive treatments, a hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus) might be the best option in certain situations, such as when fibroids are too large, symptoms are severe, or when there's a desire to eliminate all chances of fibroid recurrence. 

  • Medical Necessity: Hysterectomy may be necessary when fibroids lead to severe bleeding that cannot be controlled with less invasive methods, or when the fibroid size causes significant health issues such as bladder pressure leading to urinary problems, or severe anemia that is unresponsive to treatment.

  • Size and Location of Fibroids: In cases where the fibroids are exceptionally large or located in areas that make other treatments ineffective or risky, a hysterectomy offers a definitive solution. It removes the fibroids along with the uterus, thereby eliminating any possibility of recurrence—providing a permanent solution for relief

  • Desire for Finality: Some women choose a hysterectomy to conclusively address their fibroid problems, especially if they are certain they do not want children or have completed their family. This option can provide peace of mind by completely eliminating the source of the problem.

Choosing the Right Treatment for You

At Vascular and Interventional Partners, we understand that the choice between UFE and hysterectomy is significant and deeply personal. We are committed to providing our patients with all of the information and support needed to make the decision that best aligns with their health goals and lifestyle.

If you're considering your options for fibroid treatment, we're here to help. Our team will guide you through the process, from initial consultation to post-treatment follow-ups, ensuring that you receive the highest standard of care.

Remember, the best choice varies from person to person. We encourage you to schedule a consultation with our specialists to discuss your specific needs and explore the best treatment path for you.

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