UFE vs. Ablation

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), a safe and effective non surgical fibroid treatment option offered at USA Fibroid Centers to relieve unpleasant, stressful, or unrelenting symptoms that interfere with daily living.   However, UFE is often confused with uterine fibroid ablation. While the names seem similar, there are key differences between the two treatments.

With some similarities between UFE and ablation and a few key differences, it can be confusing to remember the benefits and disadvantages of your options. Here is a quick look at how UFE and ablation compare:

UFE vs Ablation

While both uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) and fibroid ablation are  treatment options for  fibroid growth, there are differences between these procedures that you should be aware of.

  1. Ablation is performed under general anesthesia, while UFE only requires a local anesthetic and light sedation
  2. Ablation requires stitches to close the incisions on your abdomen above your uterus. UFE only requires a bandage on a one small incision on your upper thigh or wrist
  3. Ablation requires admission to a hospital operating room, while UFE is done in one of our accredited, comfortable outpatient centers.
  4. Ablation can only work on small fibroids, while UFE can target any type or size of the fibroid.

Ablation needs more research to prove its effectiveness, but UFE is backed by evidence to be nearly 90 percent effective at decreasing or stopping fibroid symptoms over time.

Fibroid Ablation Procedures

If you live with uterine fibroids, you may have experienced heavy periods, difficulty conceiving, or other symptoms characteristic of this condition. Add the anxiety or fear that can sometimes accompany uterine fibroid treatment options, and you’re undoubtedly searching for the procedure that makes you most comfortable.  Fibroid ablation is one alternative to a hysterectomy Ablation requires general anesthesia, which can increase the recovery time. 

What Is Fibroid Ablation?

Uterine fibroid ablation is a procedure used to destroy abnormal fibroid tissue in the uterus. Instead of cutting fibroids from the uterus or removing the uterus altogether, special instruments inserted through your cervix or tiny incisions in your abdomen target symptomatic fibroids with extreme heat or cold, electrical current, or lasers. These methods soften, weaken, break up, or shrink fibroids to eliminate symptoms. 

While Ablation methods don’t require open surgery, they’re still performed under general anesthesia, with scarring from the procedure. It’s important to know that ablation methods are more invasive than UFE.

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Types of Ablation Used for Fibroids

Ablation is effective in treating abnormal bleeding but may not treat all fibroids depending on size and location. Below is information regarding various methods of ablation used for fibroid treatment.

Endometrial Ablation

Endometrial ablation is used to destroy the layer of tissue that makes up the endometrium, or the thin lining of the uterus. The doctor may recommend this procedure if you have heavy bleeding during your periods, bleeding between periods, or periods that last longer than normal. It’s performed with small tools inserted into your cervix using various methods:

  • Electricity
  • Heated fluids
  • High-energy radio waves
  • Freezing temperatures (cryoablation)
  • Microwaves

Endometrial ablation helps reduce heavy bleeding caused by uterine fibroids and can remove some small fibroids, but it cannot eliminate large fibroids or those growing outside of the uterine lining.

Before proceeding with ablation, you may be required to undergo a few tests. First, a sample of the uterine lining is tested to rule out cancer. You may need to have a test which uses a hysteroscope to see the inside of the uterus. 

The doctor may also recommend an ultrasonography, which is sound waves, used to view the organs in the pelvis. These tests ensure that the uterus is in the right shape and is the right size for ablation.

Laparoscopic Radiofrequency Ablation

Laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation is a surgical procedure which uses a thin fiber-optic tube inserted into the abdomen through an incision along with a camera to locate the fibroids. 

A third instrument is then inserted into the fibroids, delivering small needles heated with radiofrequency energy that softens and shrinks them. This method does not eliminate fibroids. It only reduces their size, making it a volume-reduction procedure. 

There is a slight risk of skin burns, along with mild cramping and pain in the pelvic area. The patient may be released to go back to work in four or five days. The procedure isn’t recommended for women who plan to have children in the future because very little research has been done on the safety and effectiveness of the procedure for pregnancy. 

Transcervical Radiofrequency Ablation

Transcervical radiofrequency ablation of fibroids, often referred to as the Sonata System, uses nearly the same technique as laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation. The major difference is that incisions are not required. Instead, the ultrasound wand and radiofrequency device are inserted through the cervix. Healing time is shorter and less painful because there are no incisions However, this procedure was only approved in 2021 by the FDA. 

What You Should Know About Ablation Procedures Risks

Ablation carries with it some risks as with any procedure. You have a risk for infection and bleeding. You may also have a burn to the vagina, vulva, or bowel. There is also the risk that the device used in the treatment may pass through either the wall of the uterus or the bowel.

Endometrial ablation isn’t recommended as a treatment for women who have gone through menopause. Women with certain health conditions aren’t good candidates for this procedure, such as uterine cancer, recent or current infection in the uterus, uterine disorders, endometrial hyperplasia, and anyone having a recent pregnancy.

The risks of miscarriage after ablation increase along with other issues. It is recommended that women use birth control after ablation until they reach menopause.

Is Fibroid Ablation Painful?

The amount of pain or discomfort you feel with ablation will vary by the type of procedure used, the kind of pain medication given, and each person’s tolerance level. It may come with discomfort with cramping for a few days and nausea. 

Fibroid Ablation Recovery

Recovering from fibroid ablation usually takes less time than recovery from surgical procedures like hysterectomy. You’ll probably experience mild to severe pain, and your doctor can recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications. You’ll also receive instructions related to sex, using feminine products like tampons, heavy lifting, and physical activity.

Follow-up visits are rarely needed after uterine fibroid ablation procedures. However, if you have signs of infection such as fever, chills, uncontrollable pain, heavy bleeding, or foul-smelling discharge, contact your doctor immediately. 

Fibroid Ablation Recovery Time

You can expect to return to normal activity five to seven days after fibroid ablation. Cramping and bleeding may occur for a few days, followed by discharge or spotting that can last up to a month. 

What Are the Effects on Pregnancy After Fibroid Ablation?

One of the most important factors you’ll want to consider when choosing fibroid treatment is your desire to have children. Pregnancy is impossible if you get a hysterectomy because your uterus is removed. Fibroid Ablation comes with associated risks to fertility, pregnancy, and birth outcomes. 

Because endometrial ablation destroys the tissue where a fertilized egg implants, you should try to consider other options if you are or plan to get pregnant. However, pregnancy is still possible, so the need for birth control remains. Laparoscopic radiofrequency ablation was approved in 2012, so there are less studies related to pregnancy outcomes. 

Ablation of the Uterus

When ablation is performed, it removes the lining of the uterus, which often stops menstrual bleeding. The uterus can no longer support the development of a fetus, which leads to miscarriage in many cases or other issues.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization vs. Fibroid Ablation

Ablation isn’t the only non-surgical treatment for fibroids. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure designed to shrink fibroids and preserve the uterus. 

Unlike ablation, which only reduces the size of the fibroid, UFE  results in the fibroid dying after shrinking. With UFE, the fibroid specialist uses ultrasound technology to locate the fibroids and the attached arteries. The doctor will insert a tiny catheter into the wrist or groin, where embolic agents are injected into the artery to block blood flow. Once the fibroid no longer receives nutrients through the blood supply, it shrinks and dies. As an outpatient procedure, you can go home the same day. There is no incision or scar with this minimally invasive treatment. 

When deciding which treatment is best for you, we suggest visiting a fibroid specialist. Before offering treatment recommendations, they can assess your symptoms and factor in your other health conditions.

Reasons to Get Uterine Fibroid Embolization Instead of Ablation

Ablation and uterine fibroid embolization provide alternatives to traditional surgical fibroid treatment. There are, however, advantages of UFE over fibroid ablation. Here are the top seven reasons to treat your uterine fibroids with uterine fibroid embolization:

  1. Available at  USA Fibroid Centers across the country, so you can stay out of the hospital operating room.
  2. Up to 90 percent effective at relieving or eliminating fibroid symptoms over time so you can have peace of mind that it’s a safe and effective treatment option.
  3. Requires only a local anesthetic and light sedation, so you don’t have to factor in the risks of general anesthesia when making your treatment decision.
  4. No need for stitches.
  5. Zero interference with your hormones or surrounding organs.
  6. Fewer post-procedure complications as reported by the Society of Interventional Radiology.
  7. Full recovery in 1-2 weeks so you’ll miss less work and return to your favorite activities sooner.

Schedule a UFE Consultation With USA Fibroid Centers Today

At USA Fibroid Centers, we understand each woman must do what’s best for her body. That’s why we provide the information and resources that may help give you the freedom to live without fibroid pain. You can request a consultation today if you’d like to speak to one of our compassionate specialists about uterine fibroid embolization.

Contact us at 855.615.2555 to learn more about your fibroid treatment options or visit one of our centers.

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  1. https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/ufe

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Life with fibroids can be painful and challenging. Timely detection and treatment of fibroids can relieve symptoms, as well as reduce your risk for hysterectomy.

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