A misunderstanding women with fibroids often have is that uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) won’t work for them because they have “too many fibroids.” Yet, it’s because of UFE’s unique method of treatment that makes this technique a success—no matter how many fibroids a woman has.
“Currently the professional society practice guidelines do not have a limit to number or size of fibroids that UFE can treat,” clarified Dr. Meghal Antani, MD, interventional radiologist and medical director at the Center for Interventional Medicine in Springfield, Va. “Therefore, there is no such thing as ‘too many’ fibroids for UFE.”
To understand the reason for UFE’s success in treating multiple fibroids, it’s best to first learn how it works. UFE targets fibroids by zeroing in on what they need to survive—blood supplied to them by the uterine arteries.
A doctor called an interventional radiologist starts by making a small incision in the wrist or groin to access the peripheral arteries that lead to the uterine arteries. Using live magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for precision, the doctor then guides a small tube called a catheter through the arteries. Once in the uterine arteries, tiny particles—smaller than grains of sand—are released to block off blood flow to all existing fibroid tissue, causing it to shrink and die.
Embolization has been shown to shrink fibroid tissue by 50% and lessen the severity of symptoms like pelvic pressure and heavy painful periods in a matter of months.1 “UFE is a good solution for multiple fibroids,” Dr. Antani said. “Blocking off both right and left uterine arteries can treat all of the fibroids, regardless of number.”
Overall, UFE’s success doesn’t depend on how many fibroids exist, but more so on targeting the right vessels. In some cases, Dr. Antani explained, fibroids are fed by other blood vessels, like branches of the ovarian arteries. If this is the case, treating these vessels with a second round of UFE may be necessary for the patient to experience full relief.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a health freelance writer and editor, registered dietitian nutritionist, and certified holistic life coach. She has master’s degrees in English education and nutrition. Through her writing, she empowers readers to live optimally by building awareness surrounding issues that impact health and well-being. She is a paid consultant of Merit Medical.
ABOUT THE DOCTOR Meghal Antani is an interventional radiologist and medical director at the Center for Interventional Medicine in Springfield, Va. With 20 years of combined patient care and research, Dr. Antani’s other specialties include, but aren’t limited to, vascular radiology, minimally invasive treatments for women’s health, and interventional pain medicine. Dr. Antani is dedicated to improving the patient experience by working to create a treatment plan that fits each person individually.
- McLucas, B., Voorhees Iii, W. D., & Elliott, S. (2015). Fertility after uterine artery embolization: a review. Minimally Invasive Therapy & Allied Technologies, 2: 1-7.