Uterine fibroids, a type of tumor that develops on the uterus, can have a significant impact on a woman’s life. Most uterine fibroids (more than 99%) are found to be benign. While the risk of a cancerous uterine fibroid is extraordinarily low, these growths can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. Women with uterine fibroids may experience heavy periods, persistent pelvic pressure, constipation, bloating, and urinary frequency. The severity of symptoms can depend on several factors. Tumor size is a leading one. Uterine fibroids can be as small as a pea or as large as a grapefruit. Size, location, and other characteristics may contribute to both the severity of symptoms and treatment plan options. In some cases, a doctor will monitor the fibroids. In more severe cases or under the right circumstances, a woman may undergo a hysterectomy. In between the two, we have uterine fibroid embolization. We’ll discuss this option here.
What is UFE?
Uterine fibroid embolization, UFE, is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed by a vascular specialist. For comfort, the patient receives a mild sedative before their treatment. This prevents pain but does not put the patient under. They are awake and completely comfortable through the process. To reach the uterine fibroid, the specialist inserts a thin, flexible tube through a tiny incision in the wrist or the groin. The catheter is progressed through an artery to the point where the fibroid is growing. Fibroids grow because they receive blood supply. So, to eliminate the growth, a blockage is created. Tiny particles are deposited into the artery near the fibroid. These particles travel to the area that feeds the fibroid and block its blood supply. As a result, the fibroid bleeds less, it softens, and it shrinks in size.
Studies indicate that uterine fibroid embolization significantly improves or completely resolves symptoms in none out of 10 women who receive this treatment. In addition to being effective, the UFE procedure offers benefits that include:
- Treatment is non-surgical and minimally invasive. Patients go home the same day.
- Uterine fibroid embolization preserves the uterine structure, unlike a hysterectomy, which removes the uterus.
- Patients often return to normal activities after just one week of downtime.
- The UFE procedure carries a very low risk for complications.
Are You a Candidate for Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Many women who want to stop the symptoms of uterine fibroids are good candidates for embolization. The gynecologist or vascular specialist performs a thorough medical history, consultation, and examination to ensure that UFE can be performed safely and with a high level of success. Women who need treatment for uterine fibroids but want to keep their uterus intact may lean toward UFE. However, the procedure is not appropriate for women who have or have recently had a pelvic infection, who have uncontrolled bleeding issues, who have a type of reproductive cancer, or who are pregnant.
The Vascular Institute of Virginia performs uterine fibroid embolization in our comfortable facilities in Fredericksburg, Woodbridge, and Fairfax. For more information or to schedule your visit, contact us at 703-763-5224.