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  • Dr Mark Garcia

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE): A Minimally Invasive Solution

Updated: Jul 10

Understanding Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas or myomas, are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop from the muscle tissue of the uterus. These fibroids can vary greatly in size, shape, and location, from being as small as a pea to as large as a cantaloupe. They can be within the uterine wall, on the outer surface, or inside the uterine cavity.


Although not usually life-threatening, fibroids can cause significant discomfort and symptoms like heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods, pelvic pain, frequent urination, and complications during pregnancy and labor. Uterine fibroids are particularly common among women aged 20-50.


What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)?

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure designed to treat uterine fibroids effectively. At Endovascular Consultants, we prioritize your health by offering this advanced treatment. UFE works by blocking the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink and eventually die. This procedure is performed by a specialized interventional radiologist who uses imaging techniques to guide the process, alleviating symptoms without the need for major surgery and preserving the uterus.


Benefits of UFE Over Traditional Surgery

  • Minimally Invasive: UFE involves a small nick in the skin, leading to less pain, reduced risk of complications, and a quicker recovery time compared to traditional surgeries like hysterectomy.

  • Effective: UFE has a high success rate, with over 90% of patients reporting significant symptom relief, allowing them to return to their normal activities much sooner than surgical options.

  • Preserves Uterus: UFE offers a uterine-sparing alternative to hysterectomy, maintaining the potential for future pregnancies and avoiding the emotional and physical impacts of removing the uterus.


How Uterine Fibroid Embolization Works

During UFE, a skilled interventional radiologist makes a small nick in the skin incision in the groin or wrist to access the femoral or radial artery. Using real-time imaging, the radiologist threads a catheter through the artery to the uterine arteries supplying the fibroids.


Tiny particles are then injected through the catheter into these arteries, blocking the blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink and die over time. The procedure typically takes about 1 hour and is performed under local anesthesia with conscious sedation, ensuring patient comfort.


What to Expect During the Procedure

  • Preparation: Before the procedure, you will have a comprehensive consultation to discuss your symptoms and medical history. Imaging tests such as an MRI or ultrasound will be conducted to assess the size, number, and location of the fibroids.

  • Procedure: On the day of the procedure, you will be given a local anesthetic and mild sedation to ensure comfort. The interventional radiologist will make a small incision to insert the catheter. Using imaging guidance, the catheter is navigated to the uterine arteries, where embolic particles are released to block blood flow to the fibroids. The procedure usually lasts about 1 hour.

  • Recovery: After the procedure, you will be monitored for a few hours to ensure there are no immediate complications. Most patients can go home the same day. It is normal to experience some cramping, pain, and possibly nausea for a few days, which can be managed with pain medication. A follow-up appointment will be scheduled to monitor your recovery and assess the treatment's effectiveness.


Addressing Common Concerns and FAQs


How painful is uterine fibroid embolization?

  • Most patients experience mild to moderate pain during and after the procedure, which is manageable with medication. Pain typically peaks within the first 24-36 hours and gradually subsides over the next few days.


Are you awake during fibroid embolization?

  • Yes, patients are awake but sedated during the procedure, ensuring comfort without the risks of general anesthesia.


What are the risks of uterine fibroid embolization?

  • UFE is generally safe, but like any medical procedure, it carries some risks, including infection, bleeding, and damage to blood vessels. These risks are rare and manageable.


Do you lose weight after uterine fibroid embolization?

  • Weight loss is not a direct outcome of UFE, but some women may notice a decrease in abdominal size as the fibroids shrink.


How fast do fibroids shrink after embolization?

  • Fibroids typically begin to shrink within weeks of the procedure, and continue to improve over several months.


What size fibroid is too big for embolization?

  • UFE can treat fibroids of various sizes, but very large fibroids may require alternative treatments. Your interventional radiologist will evaluate the best approach for your specific case.


Recovery and Aftercare Tips


Post-procedure care is crucial for a smooth recovery:

  • Rest: Take it easy for several days following the procedure. Avoid strenuous activities, heavy lifting, and exercise for at least a week.

  • Medication: Follow your doctor’s instructions for pain management. You may be prescribed pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications.

  • Hydration and Nutrition: Drink plenty of fluids and maintain a healthy diet to support your body's healing process.

  • Follow-Up: Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments to monitor your recovery and assess the treatment's effectiveness.


Real-World Example

At Endovascular Consultants, we've helped countless women regain their quality of life through UFE. One patient, Jane, experienced severe menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain for years. After undergoing UFE, she reported significant symptom relief and a quick return to her daily activities.


Conclusion

Ready to explore how Uterine Fibroid Embolization can improve your quality of life? Contact Endovascular Consultants today to schedule your consultation. Our expert team is here to guide you through every step of your treatment journey, providing the compassionate and effective care you deserve. Call us at 302-760-9002 or visit our website to book an appointment.


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