What is uterine fibroid embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), often referred to as uterine artery embolization (UAE), is a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat uterine fibroids.
A UFE is performed as an alternative to a hysterectomy or myomectomy. It is often preferred due to its minimal-to-no hospital stay requirement, lower complication rate, and shorter recovery period.
Why might I need uterine fibroid embolization?
Your healthcare provider may recommend a UFE if you have:
- Anemia from uterine bleeding due to fibroids
- Fullness or pain in your abdomen
- An enlarged uterus or abdomen
- Frequent urination due to bladder pressure
- Constipation or bloating due to bowel pressure
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain in your back or legs due to fibroids
Patients who are pregnant, desire to preserve fertility, have an active chronic pelvic infection, vascular disease, endometrial cancer, or are allergic to contrast material containing iodine may be ineligible for this procedure.
How is a uterine fibroid embolization performed?
A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is placed into the femoral artery by an interventional radiologist during a UFE. The radiologist then guides the catheter to the fibroid’s blood supply, where small particles made of plastic or gelatin are released to block blood flow to the fibroid vessels. This practice results in the uterine fibroid softening, bleeding less and shrinking in size.
What are the risks of uterine fibroid embolization?
Though risks associated with the UFE procedure are lower than those undergoing major surgery, possible complications include injury to the uterus, abnormal bleeding, uterine or puncture site infection, puncture site hematoma, blood clots, infertility, loss of menstrual periods, and postembolization. Patients may also have other risks unique to their individual health. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
If you are experiencing pelvic pain due to uterine fibroids or for more information on the uterine fibroid embolization procedure, request a consultation with one of our experts at Baptist Health.