Uterine Fibroid Embolization Recovery
If you suffer from the effects of fibroids, you may be considering uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). Uterine fibroids can cause painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient symptoms that sometimes disrupt career goals, social activities, and even intimate relationships. If you experience fibroid symptoms such as heavy periods, severe cramps, painful sex, and frequent urination, you may benefit from UFE treatment.
Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive, office-based treatment that can shrink your fibroids, alleviate symptoms, and improve your quality of life. UFE involves less risk and a shorter recovery than hysterectomy and other fibroid surgeries, and it leaves the uterus fully intact, therefore preserving fertility.
Although UFE takes a non-surgical approach to fibroid treatment, we understand that undergoing any medical procedure can be stressful. You may be concerned about the treatment or worried about a painful recovery. Since UFE allows you to go home the same day to begin your recovery, you may also have questions about the likelihood and severity of potential side effects.
At USA Fibroid Centers, we believe that knowing what to expect during and after UFE treatment can set your mind at ease. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about uterine fibroid embolization and UFE recovery. If you have additional questions, contact one of our highly experienced fibroid specialists.
What Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) or fibroid embolization, is a minimally invasive, outpatient treatment for fibroids. Unlike hysterectomy (a surgery that treats fibroids through the complete removal of the uterus), UFE uses a non-surgical technique to block blood flow to fibroids. This causes the fibroids to shrink and wither away. Over time, any treated fibroids are naturally reabsorbed by the body.
During a UFE procedure:
- You will be given a light sedative to help you remain calm and comfortable. General anesthesia is not necessary.
- After applying local anesthesia, one of our interventional radiologists will insert a catheter in the groin (femoral artery) or wrist (radial artery).
- A type of real-time imaging called fluoroscopy will help your doctor guide a tiny catheter into the artery feeding the fibroid.
- Next, your doctor will inject small embolic material through the catheter to block blood flow to the uterine artery.
- After removing the catheter, your doctor will place a small bandage over the site. Stitches are not required.
After receiving fibroid embolization, plan to remain on-site for a brief recovery period before being discharged. You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure because of the lingering effects of sedation.
Once you’re ready to head home, we will provide personalized discharge instructions, along with prescriptions for medications if necessary. Prescribed medications may include pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, stool softeners, anti-nausea medications, or antibiotics.
What to Expect After Uterine Fibroid Embolization
You can expect a few changes following uterine fibroid embolization. It’s important to understand which symptoms of UFE recovery are considered normal so that you can recognize if an unusual response occurs. Rest assured that complications are rare after embolization for fibroids.
What to expect during UFE recovery:
Pain or discomfort: Many of our patients express concern about pain after fibroid embolization. While you may initially experience sensations similar to bad menstrual cramps, you can expect to feel better each day. In most cases, pain is managed with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or Tylenol. Some women require prescription pain relievers for a short time. If you are prescribed any medications, make sure to take them exactly as directed.
Bleeding, spotting, and vaginal discharge: You may experience bleeding, spotting, and vaginal discharge for up to one month following UFE treatment. Discharge may appear gray or brownish and should clear as you to recover. Some women pass fibroid tissue during UFE recovery, which can continue longer than other symptoms. You can wear sanitary pads or pantiliners as needed.
Nausea: Some women report mild nausea for several days following uterine fibroid embolization. If this occurs, try eating bland foods and drinking plenty of fluids. If your nausea causes undue distress or does not resolve within a few days, talk to your doctor about anti-nausea medications.
Fever: It is not uncommon to have a mild fever (below 101 degrees) after UFE. If this occurs, follow your doctor’s instructions on how to reduce fever.
Fatigue: Many women experience fatigue during uterine fibroid embolization recovery. Be sure to get enough sleep at night and plenty of rest during the day. You should regain your energy within one to two weeks.
Period changes: You may miss a period or two after fibroid embolization, or your next several menstrual cycles may be heavier than usual. Period changes are considered normal during UFE recovery, so don’t let this be a source of concern.
If you have any questions during your recovery, contact us. We can provide further instructions at that time.
Tips for Taking Care of Yourself After UFE
Given that you may not feel your best right after fibroid embolization, we recommend a regimen of self-care measures during recovery. You may need to request a week (or more) off work and arrange help with childcare duties and household chores.
During your UFE recovery:
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing
- Eat a normal diet when possible
- If you experience nausea, choose bland foods like rice, toast, and yogurt
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take medications exactly as prescribed
- Do not drive while taking prescription pain relievers
- Get lots of rest
- Use a heating pad to help relieve cramps
- Take short, daily walks
Although it may be challenging to take the necessary time to recover, it’s important to care for yourself after UFE to minimize treatment side effects and avoid complications. In most cases, planning can help make this possible.
What Not to Do After Fibroid Embolization?
Along with following our tips for self-care while recovering from UFE, avoid certain activities to support a full and rapid recovery.
To aid your UFE recovery:
- Do not lift anything heavy (over 10 lbs) during the first week of your recovery
- Do not shower during the first 24 hours
- Do not bathe, swim, or immerse yourself in water for the first 5 days
- Do not participate in strenuous activity until you receive medical clearance
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Fibroid Embolization?
Most women can resume their normal daily activities within one to two weeks after uterine fibroid embolization. However, it is not unusual for some side effects of UFE treatment to continue for several weeks or months.
For instance, you may notice bleeding, spotting, and vaginal discharge for up to one month after the procedure. Some women pass pieces of fibroids for even longer. Your periods may not return to normal for several months.
Depending on your initial fibroid symptoms, you may experience one or more of the following after your UFE recovery:
- Shorter, lighter periods
- Fewer menstrual cramps, if any
- More comfortable sex
- Less frequent urination
- Regular bowel movements
- A normal-sized uterus
- Resolution of anemia
When Should I Call a Doctor?
You should call your doctor whenever you have questions about your treatment or medications or if you experience any signs of complications.
Although complications are rare after fibroid embolization, they can occur. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following issues:
- A fever over 101°F
- Chills, cough, weakness, or achiness after the first week
- Pain not controlled by medications
- Heavy, bright red vaginal bleeding
- Large blood clots
- Nausea or vomiting
- Inability to drink fluids
- Increased or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Signs of infection, such as increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness
- Signs of a blood clot, including pain, redness, or swelling in your calf, knee, thigh, or groin areas
- Bleeding or the development of a painful lump at the insertion site
If you are unsure whether to contact your doctor, we encourage you to err on the side of caution and make the call.
Schedule a Consultation Today
There is no need to suffer from heavy periods and other fibroid symptoms any longer. Uterine fibroid embolization can quickly shrink your fibroids, alleviate symptoms, and improve your quality of life. UFE treats both large and small fibroids growing individually or in clusters.
Although it is necessary to rest and recover after UFE, most women are back to their normal activities within one to two weeks. For comparison, recovery from a hysterectomy can take as long as 8 weeks. UFE involves less risk than surgery and does not require a hospital stay. Perhaps best of all, UFE treatment will not impact your fertility.
At USA Fibroid Centers, our leading fibroid specialists perform uterine fibroid embolization at dozens of locations across the country. If you have questions about health insurance coverage, go ahead and give us a call at 855.615.2555. We work closely with most major insurance plans to maximize benefits. When you’re ready to meet with one of our specialists and learn more about embolization for fibroids, schedule an appointment online.