Uterine Fibroids

What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)?

Uterine fibroid embolization is a safe and very effective procedure used to treat uterine fibroids which has been performed commonly in the US and other countries for more than 25 years. During the procedure, a doctor guides a tiny tube (catheter) from either the hip or wrist artery into the blood vessels of the uterus. Tiny beads are then injected through the catheter into the artery. The beads travel with the blood in the artery and are taken right into the fibroids. This plugs up the tiny blood vessels in the fibroids and shuts down the blood flow to the fibroids. When the procedure is completed, everything is removed from the body except for the tiny beads which remain in the fibroids. Over time the fibroids will shrink and die, resulting in symptom improvement.

What are the benefits of UFE?

  • Less invasive treatment without surgery — The procedure is done on an outpatient basis, without the need for general anesthesia or a breathing tube. There is no need to make a large incision in the skin, as the procedure is done through a tiny micro-incision used to gain access to the blood vessel.
  • Faster recovery — Women will return home the day of their procedure and can resume light activity the following day. Most women take a few days off work but are able to resume working within a week or so. There are no large surgical incisions that need to heal, only a tiny nick in the skin covered with a Band-Aid. On average, women can resume exercise and other physical activities many weeks sooner than if they had an operation.
  • Lasting results — The vast majority of women (over 85 percent) experience improvement in their symptoms, lasting for years. Most will avoid the need for future surgery or other invasive treatments for their fibroids.
What are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine Fibroids

If you’re a woman experiencing pelvic pain, pelvic fullness, or heavy menstrual flow, it might be a sign that you have uterine fibroids. Fibroids are common and affect as many as one in three women, but they can cause unpleasant symptoms that impact your quality of life. At Vascular & Interventional Partners, we’ve made it a priority to provide the safest and most effective treatments available for uterine fibroids, so we’re proud to offer uterine fibroid embolization — a minimally invasive technique that can help you live in comfort again without having to go through a major surgery or downtime.

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are benign tumors that can develop within the wall of the uterus. Made up of muscle and connective tissues, uterine fibroids 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.

Uterine Fibroid Symptoms

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:

  • Longer, heavier menstrual periods
  • Lower abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Lower back pain
  • Bloating or constipation
  • Urinary issues (incontinence, frequent urination)

Symptoms can vary depending on the size or number of fibroids and their location. As hormone levels decline during menopause, symptoms may also stabilize or go away completely. If uterine fibroids are causing you discomfort and interfering with your daily life, don’t hesitate to talk to one of the physicians at ViP and explore your treatment options.

What Causes Uterine Fibroids?

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 to 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?

How are Uterine Fibroids Treated?

At Vascular & Interventional Partners, we offer patients a minimally invasive treatment option to relieve the symptoms of uterine fibroids. Known as uterine fibroid embolization, this technique works by depriving fibroids of their blood supply, causing them to shrink. Uterine fibroid embolization 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 made in the skin. Guided by fluoroscopic imaging, the catheter is guided to the uterus, where tiny particles ofinert beads are injected into the artery. These will travel into the tiny vessels of the fibroids and block blood flow (=embolization). Without this 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.

What Happens After Uterine Fibroid Embolization Procedure?

Uterine fibroid embolization blocks the blood supply to fibroids. The fibroids then begin to die and this causes typical symptoms after treatment, including abdominal and pelvic cramping, pain, a low-grade fever, or nausea. These symptoms are worst in the first few days after the procedure. In some patients, the symptoms can last for 2 - 3 weeks. During the days following your interventional radiology procedure, the doctors at ViP will provide medications to control pain, nausea, and inflammation. A patient that has side effects that don’t improve after two weeks, continue to worsen, or a fever of over 101.5 degrees for more than 24 hours, should call to notify their ViP doctor.

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 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 50 percent, but the decrease in size may take six months or more and results vary from patient to patient. Extremely large fibroids may require surgical removal for optimal results.

Benefits of Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine fibroid embolization has a number of 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. 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 surgery
  • Treats multiple fibroids at once
  • Keeps the uterus intact
  • Symptom improvement within three months

Learn More

At Vascular & Interventional Partners, we know that fibroids can cause symptoms that interfere with daily life. We also know that patients prefer the most effective and minimally invasive treatment options available. We help women find relief from fibroid-related pain and discomfort with uterine fibroid embolization. To learn more about this procedure and find out if it's right for you, contact or call us today at (480) 435-9100.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization Safe?

Uterine fibroid embolization is widely accepted around the world 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. The majority of 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.