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UFE: Can Fibroids Be Removed without Surgery?

Do you suffer from mild to severe pelvic pain or cramps? Have you noticed the presence of a firm lump located near the middle of your pelvis? Do you also have a heavy menstrual flow or experience bleeding between menstrual periods? If so, then you may have developed uterine fibroids. While fibroids are non-cancerous, they can prove to be painful and lessen your quality of life if left untreated.

At IVC, we offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) to our patients interested in nonsurgical fibroid treatment. We believe you should not always have to resort to surgery just to live pain-free after developing fibroids. With UFE, we can help you live in comfort again, no surgery necessary.

The Downsides of Surgical Fibroid Treatment

Several modern treatments for uterine fibroids exist, including invasive and surgical procedures. Commonly, hysterectomy or myomectomy surgery is performed in order to eliminate fibroids completely. While these procedures do rectify the issue, the invasive nature has some inherent risks such as prolonged downtime, painful side effects and unsightly scarring.

During a hysterectomy, the uterus is completely removed, rendering patients unable to bear children after the procedure. Since fibroids occur in women of childbearing age, losing the ability to have more children often makes hysterectomy an unfavorable procedure. Hysterectomy also results in a wide scar below the navel from the abdominal incision used and comes with an average of six weeks of downtime.

Myomectomy, another common option for treating uterine fibroids, allows women to keep their uterus while removing the tumors directly. While myomectomy eliminates the tumors and still enables patients to continue having children, it also comes with inherent risks and complications. Scar tissue may develop following surgery and can cause issues with the fallopian tubes and surrounding organs. Myomectomy may also make normal vaginal delivery riskier, leading to many myomectomy patients opting for delivery via C-section instead.

Overall, surgical treatment options provide effective but limited results that can have lasting effects. Not every woman is also a candidate for surgery depending on their age, overall health and certain medical conditions.

The Benefits of Nonsurgical UFE for Treating Fibroids

Rather than surgically removing the fibroids or the entire uterus, UFE instead focuses on managing and treating the fibroids by cutting off their blood supply. A single minimally invasive UFE procedure shrinks fibroids while still maintaining patients’ ability to bear children and without leaving large scars behind.

Most UFE patients return to work in 7 to 11 days, avoiding the long periods of downtime typically associated with surgical options. Commonly, patients report pelvic pain during the first 12 hours which can be managed using prescription and over-the-counter pain medication. Some patients also experience temporary nausea or mild spot bleeding that dissipates within the first few weeks of recovery.

While surgical fibroid removal may be the right option for some patients, UFE allows women to treat the painful symptoms of their fibroids without resorting to surgery.

The UFE Procedure Explained

While UFE does not remove the fibroids, the painful and unpleasant symptoms associated with uterine fibroids are typically resolved by the procedure. If you are interested in undergoing UFE, then you will first need to receive some diagnostic testing to confirm that you are a good candidate for the treatment.

During the UFE procedure, a small nick is made in either the top of the leg to reach the femoral artery or at the wrist to reach the radial artery. A catheter is then guided along the artery through the incision, using an arteriogram to map out and highlight the blood vessels that feed directly into the fibroids. Once the fibroid arteries have been located and the catheter has been guided to them, tiny microsphere particles are injected through the catheter to embolize, or plug up, the arteries.

With the fibroids’ blood supply cut off, the fibroids then shrink and no longer provide the constant pressure on the internal organs that causes pain and discomfort. The entire procedure takes less than one hour, with the embolic particles left in place to prevent future fibroid growth. One incision is made on each side of the body in order to cut off blood supply to the fibroid from all angles. The incisions used during UFE are much smaller than those used in surgery and heal without leaving behind a noticeable scar.

Nonsurgical Fibroid Treatment Provided by Interventional and Vascular Consultants

At IVC, we are proud to be the only independent vascular and interventional radiology practice in the Northwest. We strive to provide our patients with the safest and latest nonsurgical and minimally invasive treatment options whenever possible. With uterine fibroid embolization, we can treat your fibroid symptoms safely with little to no downtime.

To learn more about UFE and the other services offered at IVC, call us today at 503-612-0498 to schedule a consultation.

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