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.
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
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.
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.