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Treatment / Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a procedure that blocks blood flow in the vessels that are attached to the fibroids in your uterus. This minimally invasive treatment is used as an alternative to a myomectomy (fibroid removal surgery) or hysterectomy.

Am I a Candidate for UFE?

When you come in to be treated for uterine fibroids, your doctor will talk to you about your medical history and perform diagnostic testing, which may include an MRI or ultrasound. Once it is determined that you are a good candidate for UFE, the next step is the treatment. Candidates for UFE are women who suffer from one or more of the following:

  • Heavy or prolonged periods (lasting more than a week)
  • Urinating frequently or inability to completely empty the bladder
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Back or leg pain
  • Constipation

Other reasons you may choose UFE over surgery are:

  • As an alternative to invasive surgery such as a myomectomy or hysterectomy
  • You are not pregnant, and are done having children
  • You are not able to have surgery due to pre-existing conditions (anemia or other bleeding disorders, obesity, allergies)

UFE is a safe procedure that can provide relief from the symptoms of uterine fibroids without the need for invasive surgery. Nearly 90 percent of women who were surveyed at their final follow-up appointment reported that they were satisfied with the results of UFE.

What to Expect for the Procedure

When you come in for your UFE, you will either have local anesthesia with sedation, or general anesthesia – whatever you and your interventional radiologist (IR) have discussed prior to the procedure. Your IR will make a small incision in your groin or wrist so that they can access the two uterine arteries, which will lead them to the smaller blood vessels of the uterus. They will then insert a small catheter, and inject a contrast fluid. Using x-ray guidance, they can clearly see the fibroids and the blood vessels that are attached to them. After they are located, the IR will inject tiny spheres of gelatin or plastic, called embolic material, into the blood vessels, blocking the flow of blood to the fibroids. The process is repeated on the other side of the uterus, the catheter is removed, and the procedure is complete.

Once deprived of oxygenated blood, the fibroids will shrink over time, and the embolic material stays permanently in the blood vessels at the site of the fibroid, preventing them from reoccurring.

Recovery

UFE is usually performed as an outpatient procedure and typically lasts less than an hour. After your UFE, you will rest in a recovery area for a while before you are sent home. Depending on your pain level or the number of fibroids treated, your doctor may want you to spend the night in the hospital for further observation.

Many patients may experience moderate to severe pelvic pain for up to twelve hours following the procedure, which can be treated with prescription or over-the-counter pain medication. Other side effects may include nausea or vomiting, and spotting or bleeding (due to fibroid breakdown). These symptoms should only be temporary, so if they persist after a few weeks, you should talk to your doctor. Additionally, some women may pass fibroid tissue anytime between one and three months post-procedure. If this happens to you talk to your doctor immediately so they can make sure you don’t develop bleeding or an infection.

However, most women recover from UFE with no complications, and are able to go back to their daily activities within a week to ten days. You will follow up with your doctor after the procedure to monitor the healing process, and they will usually schedule an ultrasound or MRI for a few months later.

Advantages of UFE versus Surgery

Besides the minimally invasive aspect of UFE, more women are choosing to undergo UFE because of the positive results of the treatment, including:

  • Decreased menstrual bleeding from fibroids
  • Decrease in pelvic pressure or pain caused by fibroids
  • Restoration of urinary function
  • Ability to remove fibroids but keep the uterus intact
  • Little to no downtime for recovery
  • Safer procedure with fewer risks or complications
  • Improvement in quality of life

Again, whether or not you are a candidate for UFE will depend on your diagnosis and consultation with your interventional radiologist. But if you suffer for uterine fibroids and are looking for a treatment that can offer a safe, quick solution, uterine fibroid embolization my be the answer for you. Call IVC today at 503-612-0498 to schedule and appointment for a consultation.

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