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. UFE is performed while the patient is conscious, but sedated. 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 to the uterine artery and then releases small beads into the small arteries that supply blood to the fibroid tumor. This blocks the blood flow to the fibroid tumor and causes it to shrink. Symptoms typically improve substantially and very rarely re-grow..
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UFE can be performed safely in an outpatient setting. Non-steroidal medication (Motrin) and other pain killers are prescribed for several days following the procedure to help 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.
- 80-90 percent of women experience significant relief of their symptoms
- UFE is effective on most sizes and types of fibroids
- Recurrence of treated fibroids is rare
- Approximately 14,000 UFE procedures are performed annually in the U.S.
- Embolization of the uterine arteries has been performed by interventional radiologists for more than 20 years. It was and still is used to treat life-threatening bleeding after childbirth.
- The embolic particles are FDA approved.
- UFE is covered by most major insurance plans
- UFE is an organ sparing procedure preserving the uterus
UFE is very safe 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 myomectomy.