What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization(UFE)?
If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, you may be considering fibroid surgery. Before committing to a surgical method, we encourage women to learn their fibroid treatment options. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (or Uterine Artery Embolization) is non-surgical option that provides relief from fibroids without the risks of an invasive surgery. UFE offers many benefits to patients seeking alternatives to a hysterectomy or myomectomy. The procedure involves interventional radiologists using imaging to guide a catheter through a small incision in groin (femoral artery) or the wrist (radial artery) to the artery feeding the fibroid and blocks the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroid. By eliminating the blood supply, it causes the fibroid to shrink and die.
If you are experiencing symptoms like heavy bleeding, bleeding between cycles, frequent urination, painful sex, low energy, or pelvic pain, our fibroid specialists can help you discover the numerous benefits of UFE. The doctors at USA Fibroid Centers have years of experience with UFE and have helped women regain their life.
Why Uterine Fibroid Embolization Treatment?
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally-invasive, FDA-approved, outpatient procedure that treats uterine fibroids and can alleviate your fibroid symptoms. There is no hospitalization, stitches, or scarring involved.
UFE treatment is a revolutionary option for women who suffer from fibroids but don’t want to undergo major surgery with a long recovery time. It also offers alternatives over a hysterectomy for women who wish to get pregnant in the future. After UFE, your fibroids will shrink, and your toughest symptoms — from heavy menstruation to chronic abdominal pain — can disappear.
- Uterus Preserving
- Requires no general anesthesia
- Does not cause scarring like surgical techniques do
- 85-90% of women experience significant relief of their symptoms
- Better recovery time to get you back to living your life
- Can be done in an out-patient setting.
Causes of Fibroids
Although the cause of fibroids isn’t known, doctors believe it may be a combination of genetics and hormones. Fibroid disease can begin after you reach puberty and continue until menopause when fibroids are more likely to stop growing and even shrink because of the reduction in estrogen. Certain risk factors may increase your risk of developing fibroids, including:
- High blood pressure
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Race [see fibroids in African-American women]
If you have a close family member diagnosed with fibroids, it increases your risk of getting them. If you suspect that you have fibroids, you should discuss your concerns with a fibroid specialist. You can also compare any symptoms, such as severe menstrual cramps, with those most often associated with fibroids.
Types of Fibroids Treated
Different types of fibroids exist, including intramural fibroids, which are the most common. They develop in the muscles of the uterus and can grow quite large if not treated. Subserosal fibroids grow outside on the outside of the uterus and may be attached by a thin stalk and press against other organs. UFE can treat both types of fibroids.
How to Prepare for a UFE Procedure
UFE is an outpatient procedure, which makes it easier to prepare. Once you schedule your appointment, our devoted staff will guide you through the process. You will need to have someone drive you home. We also recommend taking a few days off from work to rest. In most cases, you will be able to return to your normal schedule within a week or two.
What to Expect During a UFE Procedure
A UFE procedure is quick and relatively straightforward. At USA Fibroid Centers, an interventional radiologist will start by giving you a light sedative that helps you relax. General anesthesia is not necessary.
You’ll be calm and comfortable the entire time. We will locate your fibroids using advanced ultrasound technology, known as fibroid mapping. This live guidance allows the specialist to see which arteries are connected to the fibroids and how many fibroids they will need to treat.
One of our specialized interventional radiologists will then numb your upper thigh or wrist, make a small incision, and insert a tiny catheter. A real-time x-ray called fluoroscopy helps guide the catheter into the uterine artery that supplies blood to fibroids. Then, we inject small embolic material into the artery. These particles block the blood flow and keep blood from getting to your fibroids, causing them to shrink. Without a steady supply of oxygenated blood, the fibroids begin to starve and shrink. The injected embolic material remains permanently in the blood vessels at the fibroid site; therefore, the likelihood of the same fibroid returning to its normal size is rare.
This FDA-approved treatment is an effective solution for treating fibroid symptoms –– with an 85 to 95 percent success rate. Because this is a targeted treatment, only the fibroids are affected, meaning the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other surrounding structures are left completely unaffected.
After the particles reach the artery, the interventional radiologist will take the catheter out and put a small bandage over your incision. Stitches aren’t required, and you won’t leave with a scar. The UFE procedure takes about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the number of fibroids to be treated.
Recovery Time: Most women completely recover in 1-2 weeks
Uterine Fibroid Embolization Recovery
On the day of your UFE treatment, we will continue to observe you on-site for a brief recovery period. Then you will go home to begin your recovery and rediscover a new life that isn’t ruled by your fibroid symptoms.
Remember to bring a driver with you since it will be unsafe to drive yourself home due to mild sedation. In the coming days, you will likely be able to manage any post-procedural pain with over-the-counter medications.
Immediately after a UFE procedure, you can expect to have cramping in your lower abdomen for the first 24 hours. It will feel similar to what you would experience during your normal menstrual cycle but will subside quickly.
Most doctors recommend that you plan to stay at home for the first week to recover from UFE. Here are some other restrictions that will be in place after the procedure:
- No baths for two weeks, but shower as normal.
- No tampons during your next period.
- Abstain from sex for two weeks.
- No heavy lifting or strenuous exercise until you have regained your strength.
- Refrain from taking aspirin for at least the first week.
- Traveling isn’t recommended for at least two weeks.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization Recovery Time
Perhaps the most notable aspect of UFE recovery is how quickly women recover. The majority are back to normal activities within only one to two weeks. For comparison, a typical hysterectomy recovery takes six to eight weeks, during which time activity is limited. For example, you can’t lift any heavy objects for a while or drive while taking prescription pain medications.
Are You a Candidate for a Uterine Fibroid Embolization Procedure?
Your first thought may be, “How do I know if I’m a good candidate for UFE?” We recommend that you consider Uterine Fibroid Embolization if you:
- Are limited to what activities you can do because of heavy bleeding or pelvic pain
- Have to plan your day around being close to a restroom
- Are constantly buying and using an excessive amount of tampons or pads, or having to layer to prevent bleeding through
- Constantly worrying about bleeding through your clothes in public
- Forced to miss work due to pelvic pain, pressure, or cramps
- Can’t wear your normal size in pants due to a protruding belly or abdomen
- Are unable to wear white, or light colored clothing
- Constantly taking over-the-counter pain medications to manage pain
It’s very important to talk to a fibroid specialist to learn more about non-surgical, outpatient fibroid treatment before making any treatment decisions. Many women are unaware that other options exist for fibroid treatment besides a hysterectomy or myomectomy.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a relatively low-risk procedure compared to fibroid surgeries like hysterectomy or myomectomy. Because a UFE procedure is less invasive than surgery, benefits include no incisions, and a shorter recovery time.
Before UFE treatment, one of our interventional radiologists will walk you through the entire procedure and answer all questions regarding treatment, risks, benefits, and recovery. We want you to feel as informed and comfortable as possible when choosing fibroid treatment.
After UFE treatment, you can look forward to:
- Less pain, if any
- Lighter periods
- More energy
- Less frequent urination
- Less pain with sex, if any
Who is Not a Candidate for UFE?
You may not be a candidate for UFE if you have a pelvic infection that is still active or certain bleeding issues that may not be correctable. If you have been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, UFE may not be an option. If you’re pregnant, your doctor may recommend waiting until after the baby is born before proceeding with UFE.
Risks are minimal with Uterine Fibroid Embolization, but the main concern is that the uterus could become damaged during the procedure because the blood is cut off for a short time. Infection can develop around the fibroid tissue after the procedure. You can minimize any risks by choosing an experienced team of fibroid specialists who have performed numerous procedures.
Benefits of UFE vs Other Procedures
Because UFE is minimally invasive, it has a shorter recovery time than a hysterectomy or myomectomy. UFE also preserves the uterus, allowing you to maintain your fertility. A hysterectomy removes the uterus, and the patient will no longer be able to conceive or carry a baby. Since this is an outpatient procedure, you will go home the same day.
Can Fibroids Come Back After UFE?
One of the questions women ask is, “Can fibroids come back after being removed?” UFE stops the blood flow to the fibroid, causing it to shrink from lack of nutrition. Once the fibroid shrinks, it will die. However, new fibroids can form in the uterus. This is also the case with a myomectomy because the uterus is still intact. If new fibroids form, you’ll need to discuss treatment options with your doctor.
Schedule Your Uterine Fibroid Embolization Today
Our top-rated experts offer in-person or virtual telemedicine appointments for your convenience. To schedule an appointment with us, please click here and provide your information to see if your insurance is verified. We also offer payment options and you can speak to us directly at 855-515-2555 and connect with a patient care specialist that will walk you through the scheduling process. We want to assure you that we are taking precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of all employees and patients, including protecting your information. We look forward to helping you on your journey of being fibroid free without surgery!
To schedule a virtual or in office doctor visit, simply fill out our short online form and you can schedule immediately. We also want to assure you that we are taking precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of all employees and patients.