What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

A uterine fibroid refers to a growth in the uterus of a woman that is typically in her child-bearing years. While uterine fibroids are not cancerous, they can result in many negative side effects for a woman, such as severe pain. In some cases, uterine fibroids can also impact a woman’s fertility. As a result of all these side effects, many women seek to have these uterine fibroids removed. One option these women have is a uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which is generally considered to be one of the less invasive procedures for treating fibroids.

If you’re thinking about undergoing the uterine fibroid embolization procedure or would simply like to learn more about this procedure, here is some vital information you need to know about the UFE procedure.

Why should you undergo a UFE procedure?

Most women choose to undergo a UFE procedure in order to reduce the side effects associated with uterine fibroids. Besides pain, some of the common side effects of uterine fibroids include spotting, irregular menstruation, heavy menstruation, irregular uterine bleeding, cramping, and a distended abdomen. Less common side effects of uterine fibroids include pressure in the pelvis, constipation, frequent urination, and leg pains. Pains from uterine fibroids tend to afflict the abdomen, the pelvis, and the lower back. In some cases, uterine fibroids also result in painful menstruation.

Sometimes, depending on their size and location, uterine fibroids can lead to infertility or pregnancy complications. While these negative effects are fairly rare, many women prefer to be safe than sorry when it comes to their well-being and the health of their unborn child. Women with uterine fibroids who hope to conceive are advised to either treat the fibroids or have children early. This is because uterine fibroids can grow in size throughout a woman’s life. At a later age, the uterine fibroids may be large enough to impact fertility. However, uterine fibroids tend to decrease in size once a women enters menopause.

Benefits of UFE Procedures

The benefits of UFE procedures convince many women to undergo this procedure rather than others that are also designed to serve as treatment for uterine fibroids. Some of the many advantages of UFE procedures are as follows:

  • No blood loss
  • Preservation to the uterus organ
  • Decrease in dysfunction of the urinary system
  • Decrease in pain
  • Reduction of heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Covered by the vast majority of insurance companies
  • Recovery time is quick, allowing patients to leave the hospital sooner and return to work faster
  • Results in fewer complications than other procedures, such as a hysterectomy
  • A safe procedure with minimal risk

Essentially, there are many advantages of UFE procedures and very few disadvantages, which is why this option is appealing for so many women.

How is the UFE procedure performed?

The way the uterine fibroid embolization procedure works is by limiting the blood supply of the uterine fibroids. The lack of a consistent blood supply causes the uterine fibroids to shrink over time. In general, the uterine fibroid embolization procedure takes less than an hour and is performed as an outpatient therapy, which means it is not necessary for the patient to be hospitalized during or after the procedure. The reason the procedure is so short in length is because only one tiny cut into the femoral artery is required in most cases.

UFE procedures are usually performed by Interventional Radiologists (IR), who are medical doctors with great experience in the field of radiology. A woman will likely have to undergo quite a few tests before the procedure is performed in order to determine the size and location of the uterine fibroids. After the procedure, the patient may be asked to stay for up to a day in the care of the medical doctor and nurses.

To begin the UFE procedure, the medical doctor makes a small incision in the femoral artery, which is located in the thigh. The incision will give the IR access to the uterine artery via the femoral artery. This cut will allow the IR to pass a small tube called a catheter into the femoral artery and ultimately the uterine artery. The IR will use specialized X-ray equipment during the process to guide the catheter close to the location of the uterine fibroid. Once the catheter has reached the target location, embolic material will be injected into the blood flow that feeds the uterine fibroids.

This embolic material consists of small spheres that are designed to block the blood vessels that feed the fibroid with nutrients and oxygen. This deprivation of nutrients and oxygen will cause the fibroids to shrink with time. The embolic material will remain at the injection site permanently to prevent the revival of the fibroid.

The IR will then move the catheter to the uterus’ other side using the same incision of the patient’s thigh for access. Once the IR has completed the uterine fibroid embolization process, he will remove the catheter gently and use their finger to apply pressure to the incision in the thigh for a few minutes. This pressure will help slow down the bleeding. If needed, a vascular closure device will be used to close the cut.

Some common side effects after a uterine fibroid embolization procedure include pain and abdominal cramping. However, patients can expect these symptoms to disappear with time as they recover from the procedure. Your IR will recommend or prescribe medications so that you can remain comfortable during your recovery. Skilled nurses and your IR will consult with you and your OB-GYN to determine the post-procedure care you should receive and the post-procedure appointments that should be scheduled.

Without a doubt, the uterine fibroid embolization procedure is one of the least invasive ways to effectively treat uterine fibroids. As a result, more and more women are choosing to undergo the uterine fibroid embolization procedure rather than other more invasive procedures. If you have any questions about the actual procedure and the post-procedure recovery, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

Join fibroid expert Bruce McLucas M.D. and patients who stopped fibroids without surgery

Private: Uterine Fibroid Embolization

The Non-Surgical Cure for Fibroid Tumors.

Uterine fibroid embolization has existed as a medical procedure since 1975. In gynecology it was used to reduce bleeding during uterine surgery. Founding members of the Fibroid Treatment Collective noticed another important effect. It shrank fibroids. The promise of an effective, non-invasive treatment led to research, trials and medical acceptance. Today more than several hundred thousand women world-wide have found relief with this safe, simple procedure. The Fibroid Treatment Collective performed the very first fibroid embolization in America, and has authored many important articles on the subject.
Fibroid Embolization Preserved Lola's Fertility

“Honestly I would say if you have fibroids, please take control of your body, of your life, do the research, because there are options.”

Women Talk About Fibroids Patients Talk About Their Experience With Fibroid Embolization
Listen to their stories or read about their experiences

Success Rate of Embolization

Uterine Fibroid Embolization has an overall success rate of 94%. This means 94% of all patients who had the procedure experienced relief from their symptoms and significant fibroid shrinkage.

  • 99% of patients had immediate relief from heavy bleeding
  • 94% of patients experienced 50-60 percent shrinkage
  • 48% of patients who attempted to conceive were successful
  • 99% of patients returned to work in less than a week

The Few Side Effects of Embolization

Embolization is a minimally invasive and very safe procedure, but some side effects and risks are associated. Post procedure cramping is the most common, but usually controlled by pain-killers. Other side effects include:

  • Nausea and fever in 1% of patients
  • Infection leading to hysterectomy less than .1% of patients
  • Artery injury less than .1%
  • Early menopause less than 4%
  • Possible passage of fibroid vaginally 2%
  • Non-target embolization, extremely rare

Please call us to discuss the benefits and risks of embolization.

Embolization Animation VideoAnimation of Uterine Artery Embolization
Visual animation explaining fibroids and a uterine fibroid embolization procedure.
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The Embolization Procedure in Detail

Before fibroid embolization, every patient is thoroughly evaluated to ensure the procedure is appropriate for them. This includes a review of medical history, general physical condition, and any other information pertinent to the case.

Next, the patient undergoes complete pelvic imaging, either ultrasound or MRI, to measure the size of the uterus and to look for any other conditions that might be affecting their health.

After embolization, patients are evaluated within the first week, again at six weeks and once more at six months to see how the fibroids are shrinking.

Embolization Explained

Uterine Artery Embolization is a non-invasive, non-surgical, out-patient procedure. It is performed under local anesthetic and sedation and has a very quick recovery time. Most patients are back at work in a few days.

Live EmbolizationLive Uterine Artery Embolization
A very informative look at a real patient’s embolization from start to finish.
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An incision, the size of a freckle, is made in your upper thigh. A tiny catheter is inserted through this incision and into the femoral artery. Using x-ray guidance, a trained physician locates the arteries which supply blood to each fibroid. Microscopic inert particles are injected into the vessels, blocking blood supply that nourishes the fibroid. Without a steady blood supply, the fibroids begin to dwindle and shrink.

Embolization basically cures fibroids by starving them.

Join fibroid expert Bruce McLucas M.D. and patients who stopped fibroids without surgery

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