Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery
embolization, is performed by an interventional radiologist, a
physician who is trained to perform this and other types of
embolization and minimally invasive procedures. It is performed
while the patient is conscious, but sedated and feeling no pain. It
does not require general anesthesia.
The interventional radiologist makes a tiny nick in the skin in
the groin and inserts a catheter into the femoral artery. Using
real-time imaging, the physician guides the catheter through the
artery and then releases tiny particles, the size of grains of
sand, into the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroid
tumor. This blocks the blood flow to the fibroid tumor and causes
it to shrink and die.
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UFE can be performed safely in an outpatient setting. Non
steroidal medication (Motrin) and pain killers are prescribed for
several days following the procedure. This helps to control
pain and cramping. In addition, medication for nausea may be
prescribed as needed. Most women resume light activities in a few
days and are able to return to normal activities within ten
days. In comparison, recovery time after a hysterectomy is
approximately six weeks.
UFE is a very safe method and, like other minimally invasive
procedures, has significant advantages over conventional open
surgery. However, there are some associated risks, as there are
with any medical procedure. A small number of patients have
experienced infection, which usually can be controlled by
antibiotics. There also is a less than one percent chance of injury
to the uterus, potentially leading to a hysterectomy. These
complication rates are lower than those of hysterectomy and