As you’re considering how to treat your uterine fibroids, you probably want to know the details of all the different options: how to prepare, what to expect during the procedure, and how recovery will be.
With uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), it’s no different. You know the pros and cons, but you want to learn more, and the best place to find the answers is with the interventional radiologist who will be performing the procedure. Use these five questions to get the conversation started.
1. How often is the procedure successful?
The particles used in UFE are inserted into the uterine artery, which supplies 99% of blood flow to the fibroids. When this blood supply is blocked, all of the fibroids are treated, meaning that the procedure will be successful.
Occasionally, the fibroid is getting enough blood from another source to stay alive. Normally, this will be identified and treated at the same time as the uterine artery, but if it is not identified, another procedure may be required.
However, as one doctor reported, the success rate is about 95-98% for good candidates of the procedure.
2. Are your patients happy with UFE?
The statistics show that around 90% of patients are satisfied at follow-up. Dr. Linda Hughes, an interventional radiologist in Miami, FL, puts it this way:
“Yes, typically patients are very happy with the procedure in terms of the short amount of time it take for the procedure itself, the short recovery time and how quickly they see results from the procedure.”
3. What are typical complications and how often do they occur?
With UFE, complications are very rare. As with any surgical procedure, infection is possible, but it happens with very few patients.
Other than infection, there is the risk of ovarian failure or premature menopause, which affect less than 2% of patients. If that were to occur, the patient would work with her gynecologist to begin hormone replacement if possible.
4. How long should I expect to be in recovery?
After the procedure, you will likely stay in the hospital for one night so the nurses and doctors can continue to monitor how you’re doing. You will experience moderate cramping in the pelvis for up to 6 hours after the procedure is performed.
Once you return home, you may be affected by “post-embolization syndrome,” which has been described by previous patients as flu-like symptoms – fatigue, fever, nausea, and achiness. This usually goes away in 3-5 days.
Most patients are able to return to work and light activities within 7-14 days, which differs from person to person. More strenuous activity should not be attempted until at least two weeks after the treatment.
5. Will my fibroids or symptoms come back?
Since UFE blocks the blood supply to all the fibroids, there is a very low chance that they will come back. If there is another source supplying the fibroids with blood, there is a possibility that they could continue to grow, but if so, that supply can be treated.
UFE shrinks the fibroids to 40-60% of their original size, so while they will likely remain, you will not experience any more painful and frustrating symptoms.
Your conversation with your doctor shouldn’t stop here. To hear interventional radiologists’ answers to these questions and more, visit our Videos page.
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.