Uterine Fibroid Embolization

What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)?

When very common non-cancerous growths called uterine fibroids develop in the muscle wall of the uterus, they can occur with and without symptoms. The fibroids are usually diagnosed during an internal gynecologic exam and confirmed using either ultrasound or an MRI exam. Uterine fibroid embolization also known as uterine artery embolization is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure performed by an interventional radiologist to treat conditions involving the presence of the fibroid tumors by blocking their blood supply and shrinking them.

Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization my only choice?

Patients should be aware of all of treatment options available to them in the treatment of uterine fibroids and discuss them with their gynecologist or an interventional radiologist. Uterine fibroid embolization, unlike a complete or partial hysterectomy, does not remove any reproductive organs. An MRI exam helps in selecting patients who should receive non-surgical uterine fibroid embolization. Interventional radiologists interpret the MRI images to determine if a fibroid can be embolized, detect alternate causes for the symptoms and identify conditions that could prevent the procedure and avoid ineffective treatments.

What preparation is needed?

A patient should not eat for at least six hours prior to having uterine fibroid embolization. Women should be sure to inform their physician if there is a chance that they may be pregnant so that precautions can be taken to minimize radiation exposure to the fetus.

How is the exam conducted?

The exam requires the placement of an intravenous catheter for the administration of medication for conscious sedation. With the patient lying on her back on a special table that includes a fluoroscopic x-ray machine (fluoroscopy), an interventional radiologist makes a very small incision in the groin to access the femoral artery using local anesthesia. A catheter is then inserted into the artery and guided to the uterus. The procedure is monitored using fluoroscopy to provide real-time imaging to show the progress of the catheter. When the catheter is properly positioned, the radiologist injects tiny grain-sized plastic particles into the artery cutting off the blood supply to the fibroids causing them to shrink.

What should I expect?

Uterine fibroid embolization takes about an hour and after the procedure, the patient is required to remain in a hospital setting overnight. Most women experience moderate to severe pain and cramping for several hours after having the procedure. On occasion some may also experience fever and nausea. The majority of patients return to normal activity 7 to 10 days after the procedure and many resume light activities in a few days. Between 85 to 90 percent of women experience significant or complete relief of heavy bleeding and relief from pain.

Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization safe?

While uterine fibroid embolization is safe, like any surgical procedure, there are risks which you should discuss with your physician. It has been performed using FDA approved embolic particles on thousands of patients for over 20 years without long-term complications. A small number of patients have experienced infection, which usually can be controlled with antibiotics. There is also a 1 percent chance of injury to the uterus, potentially leading to hysterectomy. Less than 2 percent of patients have entered menopause as a result of the procedure.

How will I get my results?

An interventional radiologist from Via Radiology will interpret the results of the procedure and coordinate follow-up care with your physician who will then contact you.

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