Uterine Fibroid Embolization – A Patient’s Guide

Nov 25, 2022

If you’re a woman of childbearing age, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of fibroids. Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop in the uterus and affects an estimated 20-70% of women in their lifetime.

Though fibroids usually do not cause symptoms or require treatment, some women with fibroids may experience heavy vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, and other problems.

For women who suffer from symptomatic fibroids, there are many treatment options available, including surgical removal of the fibroid (myomectomy) or the entire uterus (hysterectomy). However, surgery may not be an option for women who want to remain fertile, are a poor surgical candidate, or prefer to avoid surgical intervention altogether.

For these women, uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) provides an excellent alternative to surgery.

What is UFE?

UFE is a minimally invasive procedure that treats symptomatic fibroids by shrinking the fibroids and relieving related symptoms such as heavy bleeding and pain.

During UFE, a small catheter (flexible plastic tube) is inserted into the radial artery (located in the wrist) or common femoral artery (located at the groin) and threaded through the blood vessels to the uterus.

Once the catheter is in place, tiny particles are injected into the vessels that supply blood to the fibroids. This cuts off the blood supply to the fibroids and causes them to shrink.

UFE is performed by interventional radiologists—doctors who specialize in minimally invasive procedures using X-rays or other image guidance. The procedure itself takes only about 45 minutes and patients are usually discharged within a couple of hours

What are the risks of UFE?

As with any medical procedure, there are some risks associated with UFE. These include infection, bruising or bleeding at the injection site, and risks related to sedation (if used).

There is also a very small risk (<1%) of damage to nearby blood vessels or organs. Apart from these mild complications, UFE is an overall safe, low risk procedure with notable results.

Result & Recovery

UFE Recovery is typically quick and easy. In fact, most women feel well enough to return to their normal activities within a week after the procedure.

However, you may experience some cramping and spotting for a week or two after UFE as your body adjusts to the loss of blood supply to the fibroids.

In regards to the results, some women also find that their symptoms improve immediately after UFE while others may take 3-6 months to notice a difference.

Should You Get UFE

If you’re suffering from symptomatic fibroids, UFE may be a treatment option worth considering. As a minimally invasive procedure that only takes about 45 minutes, it can provide life-changing results at a low risk.

Talk with one of our friendly experts at MIVA to see if UFE is the right option for you!