Department of Radiology: Uterine Fibroid Embolization FAQ
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Q. What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
A. Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a relatively new procedure used to shrink and
ultimately eliminate the symptoms many women experience from fibroids. Fibroids are
benign (non-cancerous) tumors that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. While fibroids
do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can often cause women to
experience heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and pressure, pain in the back or legs,
pain during sexual intercourse, bladder pressure leading to a constant urge to urinate, or an
abnormally enlarged abdomen.
UFE is a minimally invasive procedure that relieves the symptoms caused by fibroids in 90%
of patients. Although there are other accepted treatments for fibroids, UFE is considered one
of the least invasive procedures with generally little or no side effects to the patient. UFE has
also been used at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center for the treatment of obstetrical
hemorrhage and other bleeding problems in the pelvis.
Q. What can I expect during the procedure?
A. UTE requires an overnight stay at the Medical Center. Prior to embolization, the patient will
be sedated and remain drowsy throughout the procedure. Most procedures take
approximately 60 to 90 minutes. An Interventional Radiologist performs the UFE through a
small catheter inserted into the femoral artery in the groin. A local anesthetic is used to numb
the skin and no stitches are needed after the procedure.
An X-ray is performed to give the doctor a clear picture of the blood supply to the uterus and
fibroids. Using angiographic techniques, the catheter is guided through the artery to the
uterus and tiny plastic particles are slowly injected into the arteries that supply blood to the
fibroid). Over several minutes, these particles block the blood supply to the fibroids. Without
a blood supply, a fibroid will shrink up to 65%.
The embolization is continued until the blockage of blood flow to the fibroids is complete.
After complete embolization of one side is done, the other side is embolized. Though blood
flow to the fibroids is blocked, arterial flow will remain to the normal portions of the uterus.
Q. Why come to the Medical Center for Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
A. Nationally and internationally recognized for its expertise in transfusion-free medicine and
surgery, our Medical Center ensures its patients minimal use of blood products in all
treatments for fibroids. Our Vascular Interventional Radiologists are Board Certified and
specially trained to perform UFE.
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center is one of 50 sites participating in the international
Uterine Artery Embolization for Fibroids Registry Outcomes Data. This is the only
international registry that assesses the durability of the procedure, impact on fertility and,
quality-of-life for patients who have undergone UFE. This registry also allows researchers
the ability to obtain data to compare UFE to other fibroid therapies.
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center is committed to offering Patients individual
treatment plans using the most current methods and therapies available that will afford each
Patient the choice that is right for them. In addition to UFE, The Fibroid Center at Englewood
Hospital and Medical Center has other non-surgical and surgical treatment options for the
shrinkage and removal of uterine fibroids. Our physicians are expert in all treatments for
uterine fibroid management so that whatever your choice, you are in good hands. For more
information about the Fibroid Management Referral Center please call 1-800-560-7618.
Q. What are the side effects?
A. After the procedure, many patients experience several hours of moderate to severe pain,
fever, and nausea, which can be controlled with intravenous medications. Most patients
remain in the hospital for an overnight stay to ensure six to eight hours of bed rest. The
following day, most symptoms are substantially improved and those patients with mild to
moderate symptoms may be discharged from the hospital.
After discharge, many patients may experience several days of moderate to severe
cramping, tiredness, fever, or periodic nausea. To control these symptoms, pain medications
are prescribed. Although these symptoms usually diminish over several days, they may last
longer. Most women can anticipate returning to work 7 to 14 days after the procedure.
Q. Are there any complications?
A. Adverse reactions are anticipated in less than 3% of patients. Serious potential complicationsinclude injury to the uterus from decreased blood supply or infection. This is uncommon and hysterectomy to treat such complications occurs in less than 1% of patients.
In studying the effects of the X-rays used to guide this procedure, the exposure during
uterine embolization, was found to be below the level that would be expected to cause any
health effect to the patient herself or to future children.
Q. What about pregnancy after UFE?
A. Since the large majority of the patients that have this procedure are finished with
childbearing and so few women have tried to become pregnant after this procedure, it is
uncertain what effect blocking the uterine arteries will have on the ability to become pregnant
or to carry a pregnancy to term. Statistically, most patients that have been treated for fibroids
are not interested in having a baby and have not sought to become pregnant. Therefore,
without further study, it is unknown what percentage of patients that wish to become
pregnant will be able to do so. However, more than a dozen successful pregnancies have
been reported by patients who have had uterine arteries embolized for other reasons, such
as bleeding after childbirth. Research is underway to study this issue.
Q. What kind of results can I expect?
A. Presently documentation states that approximately 2000 to 3000 patients have had this
procedure worldwide. Initial results suggest that symptoms will improve in 90% of patients
with the large majority of patients markedly improved. Most patients have rated this
procedure as very tolerable. The expected average reduction in the volume of the fibroids is
50% in three months, with reduction in the overall uterine volume of about 35%.
Q. What if I still have questions about Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
A. For more information, call the Department of Radiology at 201-894-3400.