Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is 80-90% effective in reducing the symptoms caused by fibroids. Some patients' symptoms completely go away.
All patients participate in a detailed pre-procedure consultation with our physicians and nurse practitioner. Following the consultation, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is performed to most accurately determine the location and size of the fibroids. The MRI will also look at how much blood flow is getting to the fibroids and check the surrounding structures of the pelvis. Once the pre-procedure consultation and MRI results are known, the UFE procedure may be scheduled if this is the treatment option chosen to relieve the fibroid symptoms.
Uterine fibroid embolization involves blocking off the blood supply to the fibroid(s). This is done by blocking off abnormal blood vessels stemming from the uterine arteries.
- After numbing a small area in the groin, the interventional radiologist makes a small puncture into the femoral artery (blood vessel in the groin) and places a small catheter, about the size of a piece of spaghetti, into the femoral artery.
- The interventional radiologist guides the catheter through the arteries (blood vessels). Once the tip of the catheter is in the uterine artery, an agent is injected into the uterine artery, blocking off the abnormal blood vessels that supply blood flow to the fibroid(s). The fibroid(s) then shrinks and dies due to lack of sufficient blood flow.
- The procedure usually takes between 1 to 2 hours.
- When the procedure is over, the catheter is removed and pressure is applied to the femoral artery puncture site for approximately 20 minutes to stop any bleeding. A bandage is then applied. There are no stitches.
- Patients are observed overnight in the hospital. Patients are discharged the next morning with specific, pre-printed instructions for recovery at home. Time is spent with each patient before discharge, reviewing the instructions and answering questions.
Following the embolization, you should be able to return to your usual activities in approximately 7 to 10 days. There is an approximate 40-60% shrinkage of all present fibroids over the course of a year. There is a noticeable decrease in fibroid symptoms in about 4-9 weeks.
Interventional radiologist Karen Ehrman, MD, explains more about fibroids and the UFE procedure in this FREE video for women with fibroid symptoms.