Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a proven fibroid treatment alternative to having a hysterectomy. It isn’t drastic surgery but a less invasive treatment that can preserve your uterus and decrease painful fibroid-related symptoms.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognizes UFE as a viable fibroid treatment option. However, as with any medical procedure, UFE does have potential side effects, and it’s important for women to be completely informed to make the best decision for their care.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that are found in the muscle tissue of the uterus. Women with fibroids may show varied symptoms. These can include a heavy menstrual cycle, pelvic pain and/or pressure, and frequent urination.
Fibroids can range from the size of a walnut to as large as a cantaloupe (or larger). Women may have multiple fibroid tumors, making it difficult to determine which fibroid is causing symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, your doctor will follow up with you regularly and monitor any changes.
How do I know if I have uterine fibroids?
Women with fibroids often have difficulty keeping up with daily activities because of menstrual discomfort. Some are unable to maintain their way of life. While not all women have painful symptoms caused by fibroids, these tumors can cause pain that can affect you in many ways.
Determine if you are at risk for uterine fibroids.
How does the UFE procedure work?
UFE is performed by a doctor called an interventional radiologist (IR). It begins with a small incision in the groin area or the wrist which will enable the IR to access your arteries.
After this tiny cut is made, the IR will insert a small tube called a catheter into the artery and guide it through the blood vessels that lead to your fibroids.
Once the catheter reaches the fibroids, the IR will inject very small particles, called embolic agents, through the catheter. This will block off the blood flow that leads directly to the fibroids. After the fibroids are deprived of blood and oxygen, they begin to shrink and symptoms will subside. The small particles will stay there permanently.
After the IR has completed this process on both sides of your uterus, the catheter is gently removed. The interventional radiologist will place pressure on the small incision until bleeding has stopped. After holding the puncture site for a few minutes to help stop any bleeding, the IR may close the incision using a vascular closure device.
The procedure usually takes around 1 hour. After the procedure is finished, a team of nurses will help you with anything you need to feel comfortable. UFE is typically performed as an outpatient procedure.
Possible Side Effects of UFE
Around 90% of all women are satisfied with UFE. However, there are potential risks and complications to consider:
-Not having a period for six months or more
-Common, but short-term, allergic reactions, such as rashes
-Increased vaginal discharge or vaginal infection
-Possibly passing a fibroid tumor during your period
-The effects of UFE on the ability to become pregnant and carry a fetus to term and on the development of the fetus have not been determined
UFE is a minimally-invasive fibroid treatment option and is covered by most insurance companies. Explore the Ask4UFE site for more information and talk with your doctor to see if it’s the right treatment for you.
PLEASE NOTE: The above information should not be construed as providing specific medical advice but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician.