Uterine Fibroid Embolization

What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization? ufe_cartoon

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), a minimally invasive procedure performed by an Interventional Radiologist, is used to treat symptomatic fibroids of the uterus. This procedure is performed while the patient is awake but sedated. The patient lies on their back and the right groin is prepped using sterile technique.

A small nick, < ¼ inch, is made in the skin near the crease in the patient’s groin.  A small tube called an angiographic catheter is then inserted into the femoral artery and guided into the uterine arteries using fluoroscopy, (moving X-Rays).  Once the blood vessels supplying the fibroids have been identified, embolization is performed using an embolic agent, synthetic particles like grains of sand.

These particles are safe and non-toxic. These particles then blockthe flow of blood to the uterus and specifically the fibroids.  Once the blood flow has been blocked, the fibroids will shrink over the course of the next few months.  Immediately post procedure, the patient will have some discomfort which is relieved by I.V. pain medications.

When the patient is able to tolerate food by mouth and oral pain medications, she will be able to be discharged to home.  The pain associated with this procedure generally is completely resolved over the next week to 10 days.  Most women are able to resume light activities in a few days and the majority of women are able to resume normal activities within a week to 10 days.

How Successful is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

Studies show that 78 – 94 percent of women who have this procedure experience significant or total relief of heavy bleeding, pain and other symptoms.  Recurrence of treated fibroids is rare.

Is UFE Approved by the FDA?

The FDA does not regulate the practice of medicine, but it does approve devices and medications.  All devices and medications used in this procedure are approved by the FDA for use in people.  Many women wonder about the safety of leaving synthetic material inside their bodies.  The particles most commonly used for this procedure have been available and widely used for over 20 years.

How Does a Patient Prepare for Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

A patient usually presents to the Interventional Radiologist with symptoms ranging from prolonged menstrual periods to pelvic pain, pressure during sexual intercourse, constipation or abnormally enlarged abdomen.  The pre-procedure evaluation includes an MRI of the pelvis to evaluate the size of the uterus, clotting studies to evaluate the ability of the patient to form blood clots, and a pregnancy test.  This test typically will require an overnight hospital stay.  Prior to the procedure a Foley catheter is placed in your bladder. Your last meal should be before midnight the day of the procedure.  If you take blood pressure medication, please take it as scheduled with a sip of water.  If you take any medications to thin the blood or to prevent clot formation, or any anti-diabetic medication, notify our clinic as soon as possible at 352-265-0116 or 352-265-0875.

Procedure Complications

UFE is a minimally invasive procedure and therefore is considered to be very safe.  However, there are some associated risks, as there are with any medical procedure.  Most women will experience moderate to severe pain and cramping in the first several hours after the procedure.  Some patients experience nausea and vomiting as well as fever.  These symptoms can be controlled with appropriate medications.  A small number of patients may develop infection which can usually be controlled with antibiotics.  There is a rare chance of injury to the uterus requiring a hysterectomy.  This procedure may also cause a patient to enter menopause.

After Treatment Care

After the procedure, the catheter is removed from the groin and pressure is applied to the groin to prevent any bleeding.  The patient is transported to her hospital room where she will recover.  The patient must lie in bed for approximately 4 hours but will be able to eat and drink as tolerated.  When the patient is able to tolerate foods by mouth, she will be ready for discharge to home.  Each day after the procedure, there will be direct communication with one of our staff to make certain that you are recovering as scheduled and to answer any questions.

Consent Forms

If you elect to have this procedure done, please click «HERE» to print, read and sign the consent forms. The physician will go over the entire procedure with you during your appointment to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have.

Additional Information