Uterine Fibroid Embolization
What is UFE?
Uterine fibroids are abnormal tumor-like growths that develop in the muscular walls of the uterus. These tumors are most often not cancerous but can cause pain and bleeding. Fibroids have a large blood supply carrying nutrients to the fibroids to help them grow. Fibroids will shrink or go away completely if the blood supply is stopped. Embolization means to stop or block the blood flow. Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a non-surgical way to stop the blood flow that makes fibroids grow. The procedure works even if you have several fibroids.
How do I prepare for the procedure?
A consultation will take place with a radiologist to review your medical history and the procedure. Please do not ingest food or liquid after midnight the day before the procedure. Regular medication can be taken with a small amount of water the morning of the procedure. Prior to your procedure you will be admitted to a facility where an IV will be started and lab work will be done. The prep and procedure should take about 1 to 2 hours.
How is the procedure performed?
During the exam you will be given medicine to make you sleepy and relaxed. The procedure doesn't cause pain. An interventional radiologist, who is specially trained to do this procedure, will make a tiny cut in the skin in your groin area. Next, the radiologist will pass a tiny tube called a catheter through an artery to your uterus. When the catheter is in place, tiny particles are injected into the catheter. These particles, made of plastic or gelatin sponge, are about the size of grains of sand. These particles move through the catheter into the arteries that send blood to the fibroid. The particles will stop the blood flow to the fibroid. Over time, the fibroid will shrink in size or die.
What should I expect after the procedure?
You will be admitted to the hospital, where you will be closely monitored overnight and discharged the next morning. You will most likely experience significant pelvic pain or cramping for the first 12 to 18 hours after the procedure, as the fibroids begin to shrink or die. The pain can be controlled with medications as needed. You should have much less discomfort by the next morning. Follow-up appointments will be necessary with your gynecologist 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure and with the interventional radiologist 3 months after the procedure. You should see significant improvements in your symptoms, such as decreased bleeding and pain, within 4 weeks. An ultrasound examination shows reduction in the size of the fibroids within two months and continues to decrease in size over the next year.