Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)
Fibroids are the most common type of nonmalignant (non-cancerous) tumor of the uterus occurring in 20 to 50 percent of the total female population. These benign tumors can cause many problems, most commonly heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, or bulk type symptoms (pelvic/bladder pressure, frequent urination during day or night, constipation, abdominal bloating, backaches).
For most women with symptoms, the standard treatment has been hysterectomy, (surgical removal of the uterus) or myomectomy, (surgical removal of the fibroids). Fortunately, with the advancement of medicine there are other options. One such option is embolization of uterine fibroids or “UFE.” This treatment helps shrink the fibroids and is a non-surgical, less invasive procedure that is performed by an interventional radiologist.
UFE has been used for years to treat severe bleeding after childbirth, and doctors have recently begun using UFE to treat fibroids. The procedure is less invasive than surgery and can be used for multiple fibroids. “Basically a small catheter is threaded into the arteries that supply the flow of blood to the fibroid,” says Dr. Ehrman. “UFE cuts off the blood supply to the fibroid and causes it to shrink.” Dr. Ehrman has the largest UFE practice in Indiana and has done more than 300 such procedures since 1998. She says that the procedure preserves the uterus, has a lower complication rate and a faster recovery time than a hysterectomy and has high success and patient satisfaction rates.
Most women with symptomatic fibroids are candidates for UFE and should obtain a consult with an interventional radiologist to determine whether UFE is a treatment possibility for them. Uterine fibroid embolization may be a good treatment option for women who choose not to receive blood transfusions or who have other serious health conditions which make surgical procedures exceptionally dangerous.
Benefits of UFE
- 80-90% of patients are satisfied with improvement or complete relief of symptoms.
- Growth of new fibroids or re-growth of embolized fibroids is rare.
- There is minimal blood loss and therefore no need for blood transfusions.
- All the fibroids may be treated during a single embolization procedure.