Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
At North Colorado Medical Center, we provide our patients with state of the art uterine fibroid treatment.
What are uterine fibroids?
Fibroids are benign growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. These fibroids are very common in females and it is estimated that between 20 to 40% of women over the age of 35 years have these fibroids. Symptoms related to uterine fibroids depend on location, size and number of fibroids. Symptoms include:
- 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. Fibroids may range in size from very tiny to the size of a cantaloupe.
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 treatment performed by an interventional radiologist. It is a minimally invasive procedure, which means it requires only a tiny nick in the skin and is performed while the patient is conscious, but sedated. This procedure is performed for the treatment of fibroid disease. This is an option increasingly sought by patients and referring physicians in order to avoid more invasive procedures such as hysterectomy or myomectomy.
The procedure involves placing a small tube or catheter through the artery until the catheter reaches the uterine artery and the branches feeding the fibroids. The interventional radiologist releases tiny particles the size of sand into the vessels supplying the fibroids. This procedure blocks the blood flow to the uterine fibroids causing the fibroids to shrink and degenerate while the uterus remains intact. The procedure takes approximately one to two hours to complete.
What is UFE recovery like?
A minimally invasive procedure performed by an interventional radiologist, UFE generally requires an overnight hospital stay. Most patients 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. The long-term impact of UFE on fertility is not yet known. Case reports indicate that some women who have had the procedure have become pregnant.
For more information on UFE or to schedule a UFE procedure at NCMC, please call (970) 350-6713.