Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
What are uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are benign growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. They are very common among women. It is estimated that between 20 to 40 percent of women over the age of 35 years have these fibroids. Symptoms related to uterine fibroids depend on location, size and number of fibroids.
- Heavy bleeding
- Pelvic pain/bloating
- Back and leg pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bladder pressure leading to a constant urge to urinate
These symptoms typically improve after menopause.
There are three types of uterine fibroids:
- Intramural fibroid - Develop within the uterine wall and expand, making the uterus feel larger than normal. This can result in heavier menstrual flows and pelvic pain or pressure. These are the most common fibroids.
- Subserosal fibroid - Develop in the outer portion of the uterus and expand outward. They typically do not affect a woman’s menstrual flow, but can become uncomfortable because of their size and the pressure they cause.
- Submucosal fibroid - Are deep within the uterus, just under the lining of the uterine cavity. These are the least common fibroids, but they often cause symptoms, including very heavy and prolonged periods.
What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure performed by an interventional radiologist for the treatment of fibroid disease.
Requiring only a tiny nick in the skin and performed while the patient is conscious, but sedated, UFE is a treatment option sought by patients and referring physicians wishing to avoid such invasive procedures as hysterectomy and myomectomy.
During UFE, a small catheter is inserted through the artery in the groin until the catheter reaches the uterine artery and the branches feeding the fibroid(s). The interventional radiologist then releases tiny particles the size of sand into the vessels supplying blood to the fibroids. With their blood supply cut off, the fibroids shrink and degenerate while the uterus remains intact. UFE procedures generally take one to two hours to complete.
What is recovery like?
A minimally invasive procedure, UFE generally requires an overnight hospital stay. Patients may experience moderate to severe pain during the first day of recovery, but the pain is controlled with intravenous (IV) pain medication
The majority of women are able to return to work within one week of the procedure. The fibroids gradually decrease in size during the two to three months following treatment. Eighty to 90 percent of women report significant to total relief of symptoms after UFE.
UFE is considered to be a very safe procedure. However, as with all medical procedures, there are risks associated with UFE. Please check with your doctor if you have any questions.
For more information about a UFE procedure at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, please call (602) 839-5097.