Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a proven fibroid treatment alternative to having a hysterectomy. It isn’t a drastic surgery. This less invasive treatment can preserve your uterus and decrease painful symptoms.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognizes UFE as a viable fibroid treatment option. However, there are still many women who suffer from fibroids that are not aware of all available fibroid treatment options.
What are uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that are found within the muscle tissue of the uterus. Women with fibroids may show varied symptoms. These can include a heavy menstrual cycle with severe bleeding, pelvic pain and/or pressure, loss of bladder control, and frequent trips to the bathroom.
The size of these 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. Treatment is not recommended for women without symptoms. Instead, 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 here.
How does the Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure work?
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) begins with a small incision next to the groin area. This small cut will give an interventional radiologist (IR) access to an artery in the upper thigh.
After this tiny cut is made, the interventional radiologist will insert a catheter (small tube) into the artery. The doctor will guide the catheter through the femoral artery to the uterine artery connected to the fibroid.
Once the catheter reaches the fibroids, he or she will inject an embolic agent (very small particles) through the catheter. This will block off the blood flow that leads directly to the fibroids. The small particles block the fibroids from receiving any more oxygen from the bloodstream. After the fibroids are deprived of blood and oxygen, they begin to shrink. The small particles will stay there permanently. The interventional radiologist will repeat the process on the opposite side of the uterus through the same initial incision.
After the interventional radiologist has completed this process on both sides, 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. You will remain in the recovery area up to 23 hours, depending upon the decision of your physician.
Possible Side Effects of UFE
Around 90% of all women are satisfied with the treatment. They report an improvement in mood and quality of life. However, there are 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 the fibroid tumor through your period
- Early menopause
- 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
Now that you have more information, you will know what to speak with your healthcare provider about. There are side effects to be aware of, but UFE is a minimally-invasive solution for fibroids. This treatment will allow you to preserve your uterus, helping you avoid more serious complications that can happen with a full or even partial hysterectomy.
The UFE treatment can decrease heavy periods caused by fibroid tumors. It can and may decrease urinary dysfunction and pelvic pain. This treatment has very little blood loss and is considered an outpatient procedure. Patients usually stay up to 23 hours after the procedure is complete. With this more comfortable treatment, you will be able to return to work, school, and regular activities quickly and confidently.
Uterine fibroid embolization is a viable minimally-invasive fibroid treatment option for some women with uterine fibroids. It is covered by most insurance companies. Visit www.ask4ufe.com for more information about uterine fibroids and about UFE.
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.