Are you suffering from heavy and painful periods due to uterine fibroids? Although many don’t realize they are at risk, up to 80% of women develop fibroids by the age of 50. While fibroid symptoms can range, they often include severe cramps and excessive menstrual bleeding — sometimes to the point of causing anemia.
A variety of fibroid treatments are available, but people with fibroids often are not informed of all their options. As a result, the majority think that hysterectomy, the complete surgical removal of the uterus, is the only available method to treat fibroids.
At USA Fibroid Centers, we offer an effective, non-surgical treatment option called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). UFE is an alternative to fibroid surgery and can preserve fertility, reduce or painful and unpleasant symptoms, and quickly get you back to living life to its fullest.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that develop inside or on the uterus. They can be singular growths, or grow in clusters. Although not generally considered dangerous, they can nonetheless cause harm to surrounding organs, including the bladder and bowels. Fibroids range in size from that of a tiny pea to as large as twenty pounds.
While some individuals with fibroids don’t experience any negative effects at all, the presence of fibroids can often cause painful, uncomfortable, or inconvenient symptoms. Impact on fertility can also become an issue.
Learn more about signs and symptoms of uterine fibroids by clicking the button below.
The type, size, location, and number of fibroids determines which symptoms will occur, along with their severity. Uterine fibroids come in four types, classified by location within the uterus:
Fibroid symptoms can be debilitating for some, prompting sick days, missed social engagements, and a difficult life built around managing symptoms like heavy bleeding and pain. Because uterine fibroids can affect your career, relationships, sex life, exercise, and normal daily activities, don’t suffer these negative impacts longer than you have to. If symptoms are interfering with how you want to live your life, we recommend seeking treatment.
Why You Should Get an Expert’s Opinion
If you suspect you may have fibroids, you probably also have a lot of questions. We often hear from newly diagnosed patients questions such as, “Can uterine fibroids burst?” (yes, but this is extremely rare); and “What causes uterine fibroids to grow after menopause?” (this is a misconception, and fibroids typically shrink following menopause). Visiting a medical provider as soon as possible can get some of those questions answered and put you in touch with somebody who knows how to diagnose uterine fibroids accurately.
Keep in mind that fibroid symptoms can be similar to other reproductive tract issues such as adenomyosis or endometriosis, which can be more serious than fibroids and require different medical interventions. With many health concerns, early diagnosis is beneficial for the appropriate and most successful treatment outcomes.
If your doctor does determine that you have fibroids, they will likely discuss how to remove uterine fibroids and how to shrink uterine fibroids — two effective fibroid treatment methods you can read more about below. It’s important to schedule a consultation with a fibroid specialist before making any final treatment decisions.
As discussed above, many believe that the only treatment for uterine fibroids is hysterectomy — the complete surgical removal of the uterus. But there is good news for patients who’d rather avoid major surgery or are concerned about maintaining their fertility. Although in years past hysterectomy was often recommended as the standard treatment method for fibroids, today there is a non-surgical option available known as Uterine Fibroid Embolization.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is an effective, less invasive, non-surgical fibroid treatment that is performed by specialized interventional radiologists as an outpatient procedure that leaves the uterus and ovaries intact. This treatment is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with an expected recovery time of one to two weeks.
The UFE procedure takes less than an hour and is done under light sedation, so you’ll be comfortable and calm throughout. General anesthesia is not required. Women considering UFE should know:
- Before the UFE procedure, your fibroids are located using an advanced ultrasound in a process called fibroid mapping
- After numbing your thigh, one of our specialists makes a small incision which serves as the entry point for a tiny catheter
- The catheter is threaded into the artery responsible for supplying blood flow to the fibroid
- Your doctor releases small particles through the catheter to block up this artery
- Once blood flow is cut off, the fibroid begins to shrink and eventually die
- Because the injected particles remain at the site, it is unlikely that fibroids will return in the future
- Your incision requires no stitches, just a small bandage
Recovering from Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
If you’re wondering, “What is my UFE procedure recovery going to be like?” you should be able to return to your normal, daily activities in a short amount of time. During recovery, you may experience:
- Vaginal discharge
Some patients, particularly those with large fibroids, may notice weight loss after UFE. Others may experience passing fibroids after UFE vaginally, which is most likely to occur with submucosal fibroids. Potentially, you may skip your first period after UFE, or even a couple periods. Or, you may menstruate sooner than usual.
If, at any point, you are concerned that your healing is not going as expected, be sure to contact your medical provider immediately. You can rest assured that complications are a rare occurrence following a UFE procedure, but we encourage you to check in about your recovery.
Hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, is another effective treatment for uterine fibroids. It is also the only one that guarantees fibroids will not return in the future. However, this major surgery has a number of drawbacks and long-term health considerations. When comparing your treatment options, especially surgical vs non-surgical, it’s important to know what to expect after hysterectomy.
Let’s start by covering the surgery itself. If you’re concerned about how long does a hysterectomy surgery take, the answer is about one to two hours. You will be required to stay in the hospital afterwards for at least one day for close monitoring, since complications are possible. As with other major surgeries, these can include infection, excessive bleeding, an adverse reaction to general anesthesia, and blood clots.
Recovery and Side Effects of Hysterectomy
Beyond that, a full hysterectomy recovery generally takes quite a bit longer than recovery from other fibroid treatment options like UFE — typically six to eight weeks. During this time, you may have physical restrictions, such as no lifting for the first two weeks. Also, you will not be able to drive while taking prescription pain medications which are commonly prescribed after surgery. It is advised that you get plenty of rest during your hysterectomy recovery.
Potential hysterectomy side effects go far beyond the first six to eight weeks. Perhaps most notably, premenopausal women will quickly enter early menopause — which brings about its own set of both physical and emotional symptoms. You might be interested to learn that the average age of menopause in the US is 51, but fibroids are commonly diagnosed at a younger age, most often during the reproductive years.
Along with ending menstruation permanently, early menopause can cause:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Emotional changes
- Dry skin, eyes, and mouth
- Difficulty sleeping
- Decreased sex drive
For patients who have not yet had children and still desire to do so, losing the uterus can be devastating. While doctors may suggest appropriate reasons for hysterectomy in some cases, be sure to consult a fibroid specialist who will cover your full range of treatment options. You should never feel pressured to take the drastic measure of having a hysterectomy before educating yourself on all available treatment alternatives.
It is unfortunate that many doctors fail to mention fibroid treatment without surgery — choosing instead to focus on fibroid removal surgery. However, now that you’ve been informed of the differences in fibroid removal surgery recovery time between hysterectomy and UFE, you hopefully have an idea that there might be other differences in treatment worth exploring.
While UFE is often referred to as a new treatment for fibroids without surgery, we don’t want that reference to concern you. While it is indeed a newer treatment than hysterectomy, Uterine Fibroid Embolization has been around since the early 1990s.
Although it is possible that certain circumstances require fibroid removal surgery instead of UFE, guidelines around that decision are unfortunately not determined as simply as asking your doctor about what size fibroids need surgery. Fibroid size, type, number, and location — along with your individual preferences and other health concerns — should all factor into this important, potentially life-changing treatment decision.
Benefits of Treatments
Benefits of UFE
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) offers a variety of benefits over hysterectomy and other fibroid surgeries, with an approximate success rate of 85 percent. UFE is:
- Non-surgical and minimally invasive
- Lower risk than surgery
- Preserves the uterus
- Retains fertility
- Performed in outpatient setting
- Performed by fibroid experts
- FDA-approved fibroid treatment
With UFE, the uterus and ovaries remain intact, with a shorter recovery time than hysterectomy. For anyone debating UFE pros and cons, we suggest you research UFE patient reviews to learn about real life experiences from people who’ve had this treatment. You can also find online discussion about topics like “how long does it take fibroids to shrink after UFE,” or “does UFE work on large fibroids?”
Benefits of Hysterectomy
One major benefit of hysterectomy is that it is the only fibroid treatment method that ensures 100 percent that your fibroids won’t return. However, fibroid surgery also comes with a range of other impacts worth considering before making a decision.
Disadvantages of Hysterectomy
- Has a higher risk of infection, excessive bleeding, and blood clots
- Involves the potential for an adverse reaction to general anesthesia
- Requires a hospital stay
- Has a longer recovery time than UFE, of six to eight weeks
- Results in infertility
- Involves scarring
Similar to UFE, if you are debating the pros and cons of hysterectomy, we encourage you to explore hysterectomy reviews. Hysterectomy patient reviews may help you get a better sense of when to get a hysterectomy, or whether you should instead pursue a non-surgical option like Uterine Fibroid Embolization. However, the most informed way to make this critical health decision is to discuss your full range of fibroid treatment options with a fibroid specialist.
UFE vs Hysterectomy
Uterine Fibroid Embolization and hysterectomy are two effective fibroid treatment options. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, we recommend visiting a fibroid specialist to learn more about both procedures. At USA Fibroid Centers, you’ll discover that UFE is an effective, lower risk, less invasive fibroid treatment that saves the uterus and ovaries, while eliminating painful, uncomfortable, and inconvenient symptoms.
During your initial consultation, don’t forget to ask one of our top experts about the cost of UFE vs hysterectomy. Uterine Fibroid Embolization is covered by most major medical plans.
How Well Does UFE work?
Uterine fibroid embolization reduces the size of the fibroids by about 50 percent. Eighty percent of women who received the UFE treatment report great improvement in their symptoms. So far, about 3,000 women across the country have had UFE as a treatment of fibroid tumors. Less than one percent of those women had major complications immediately after the procedure, while only 4.8 percent had major complications within 30 days.
These statistics show that complications from UFE are rare. In addition, the procedure provides the same short-term outcome that a hysterectomy or myomectomy would. In 2004, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said that UFE provides “good short-term relief” for women.
Life After UFE Treatment
Most patients report an improvement in fibroid symptoms after Uterine Fibroid Embolization. They are also able to reclaim their previously affected career, social life, relationships, and sex life. We assure you that there is a better life after fibroids with proper treatment!
After UFE, you may experience:
- Lighter and shorter menstrual bleeding
- Pain relief
- Resolution of fibroid-related anemia
- An improved sex life
- A positive body image
- Higher self-esteem
- More energy
- Pregnancy and motherhood
If you are suffering from painful, unpleasant, or unwanted fibroid symptoms, we can help. As America’s #1 fibroid experts, we offer dozens of clinics across the country. Schedule a consultation today to meet with one of our top fibroid specialists and learn more about Uterine Fibroid Embolization.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Fibroid Treatment
Which treatment is best?
At USA Fibroid Centers, we believe everyone should have the option of pursuing nonsurgical treatment like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). However, we also understand every situation is different. We recommend you discuss your unique circumstances with one of our fibroid experts in order to make a fully educated decision about treatment.
Could my fibroids come back after the treatment?
While this is a possibility, it is rare to experience fibroid regrowth after Uterine Fibroid Embolization. UFE offers approximately an 85 percent success rate.
Can uterine fibroids be treated without surgery?
Absolutely. USA Fibroid Centers offers Uterine Fibroid Embolization, a highly effective, non-surgical fibroid treatment that is performed in state-of-the-art facilities. Other providers offer non-surgical fibroid treatments such as hormone therapy or medications, that a fibroid specialist can educate you around.
How do I treat pain caused by uterine fibroids?
While over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol or Ibuprofen are often used to reduce fibroid-related pain, the most effective pain relief method is to treat the underlying cause: The fibroids themselves. Fortunately, Uterine Fibroid Embolization can quickly shrink your fibroids while reducing their accompanying symptoms.
How do I prevent fibroids?
The underlying cause(s) of uterine fibroids is not completely understood, this makes it difficult to make any recommendations about how to prevent them. However, it is widely believed that certain lifestyle factors — including smoking, consuming alcohol, not exercising, and eating a poor diet — may increase your chances of developing fibroids.
Can I get pregnant after fibroid treatment?
This depends on what type of fibroid treatment you choose. If you have a hysterectomy, your uterus (womb) will be removed and you won’t be able to get pregnant in the future. On the other hand, if you opt to retain your uterus with UFE treatment, your fertility can be preserved.
What are the side effects of treatment?
In the initial days and weeks following Uterine Fibroid Embolization, you may experience cramping, nausea, fever, and vaginal discharge or spotting. Your next period may arrive sooner than expected, or you may skip a period or two entirely. Keep in mind that most patients experience a full recovery in one to two weeks.
How can I quickly recover from UFE?
We recommend carefully following all of your post-treatment discharge instructions. It is important to get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, and take pain medication as needed. You’ll soon rediscover a life free of pain and other debilitating fibroid symptoms.
Contact our fibroid experts today to schedule an initial consultation and rediscover life at its fullest.