Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive treatment performed to shrink uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths in the uterine wall. Because the procedure works by blocking uterine arteries, it is also commonly referred to as uterine artery embolization.
The UFE/UAE procedure has been used for many years to address symptoms like heavy pelvic bleeding. In addition to uterine fibroids, bleeding may be caused by:
- Traumatic physical injury
- Malignant gynecological tumors
- Post-childbirth hemorrhage
Uterine fibroid embolization is a specialized form of UAE for treating symptomatic fibroids.
It is a minimally-invasive, image-guided procedure that uses a high-definition x-ray camera to guide a catheter into the uterine arteries to deliver microscopic particles. The embolic agent that is deposited into the arteries blocks blood supply to the uterus and fibroids. As the fibroids die and shrink, the uterus recovers. The preservation of the uterus is one of several benefits of uterine fibroid embolization.
After the UFE Procedure
The uterine fibroid embolization procedure is performed with sedation and a local anesthetic. Patients will likely spend one night in the hospital after this procedure in order to limit movement and avoid the pooling of blood at the femoral artery site, where the microcatheter has been inserted. However, there are situations in which UFE can be performed as an outpatient procedure. Post-procedure discomfort is possible, so patients are prescribed pain medication. This should be taken as directed even if pain seems minimal. Driving may resume once the patient is no longer taking their prescription pain medication. It is typically necessary to take a week or two off work to rest and recover. Certain activity restrictions may be made, as well.
According to studies, approximately 90 percent of women treated with uterine fibroid embolization experience either dramatic or complete resolution of their symptoms. After the procedure, fibroids are expected to shrink to about 20 percent of their original diameter and half of their original volume. Because the embolization procedure softens fibroids, the pressure on adjacent pelvic organs is significantly reduced, if not eliminated.
The Vascular institute of Virginia is a multi-specialty practice with Vascular & Interventional experts that provide a comprehensive plan of care. If you are experiencing symptoms like abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, talk with your primary care physician about testing for uterine fibroids. If you have questions about uterine artery embolization, contact us at 703-763-5224.