Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)—also known as uterine artery embolization (UAE)—is one of many fibroid treatment options available to women. However, unlike other fibroid therapies and procedures, studies show UFE’s growing popularity may not come from doctor referral but instead from an entirely different source—the Internet.
Although UFE was first used to ease heavy bleeding after childbirth,1 it wasn’t until the mid 1970s that it was also seen to alleviate symptoms associated with fibroids.
Nearly two decades later, UFE was analyzed for its safety and effectiveness in fibroid treatment. In the early stages, it was seen to have a 70 percent success rate.2 Today UFE has been found to be 90 percent<sup”>3 effective in treating fibroid-related symptoms like heavy painful periods, urinary incontinence, pelvic pressure, and painful intercourse.
Despite these findings, approximately 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the US alone4—many of which are done to treat benign conditions like fibroids. And according to research, these numbers may reflect a lag in patient knowledge regarding minimally invasive treatment options, like UFE. Women have reported their doctors recommending hysterectomy but no other alternatives, prompting them to learn about UFE in other ways.
“[Uterine fibroid embolization] development has been largely driven by patients seeking a less invasive alternative to hysterectomy,” wrote Dr. James Spies, MD MPH and Dr. Jean-Pierre Pelage, MD PHD, authors of the book Uterine Artery Embolization and Gynecologic Embolotherapy.5 This revolutionary movement, they continued, could be largely attributed to the development of the Internet, which allows patients to explore more treatment options available to them.
With the push of a button, women can now explore the web for fibroid information, locate interventional radiologists who perform UFE, and find strength among thousands of other women who belong to online fibroid support groups.
However, this endless information comes with a catch. Ease of accessibility doesn’t always guarantee reliability. Using the keywords “uterine artery embolization,” a team of experts led by A. N. Tavare of the British Medical Journal Publishing Group, British Medical Association House in London, UK investigated the top 50 results from three major search engines. The results published in CardioVasular and Interventional Radiology6 revealed that although these sites scored high in the categories of accessibility and user-friendliness at 80 percent and 77 percent respectively, they were only 39 percent reliable.
The main problem? The authors found that the information published online often didn’t have any evidence cited to support it. The authors noted that as women search online for answers, it’s important they seek websites that contain researched information when making decisions about their fibroid care.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Alicia Armeli is a Health Freelance Writer and Photographer, 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 wellbeing. In addition to writing, she enjoys singing, traveling abroad and volunteering within her community.
Uterine Fibroids: Treating fibroids non-invasively. (2015). Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE). Retrieved October 30, 2015, from http://www.uterine-fibroids.org/uae.html
Gonsalves, C. (2008). Uterine artery embolization for treatment of symptomatic fibroids. Seminars in Interventional Radiology, 25(4): 369-377. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1103001
McLucas, B., Voorhees Iii, W. D., & Elliott, S. (2015). Fertility after uterine artery embolization: a review. Minimally Invasive Therapy & Allied Technologies, 2: 1-7.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Hysterectomy in the United States, 2000-2004. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from
Spies, J. B., & Pelage, J. (2005). Uterine artery embolization and gynecologic embolotherapy (1st ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Tavare, A. N., Alsafi, A., & Hamady, M. S. (2012). Analysis of the quality of information obtained about uterine artery embolization for the Internet. CardioVascular and Interventional Radiology, 35(6): 1355-1362.