What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization (UAE), is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus, often causing symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and pressure on the bladder or bowel.
During a uterine fibroid embolization procedure, a radiologist inserts a thin catheter into the blood vessels that supply the fibroids with blood. Using real-time X-ray imaging, the radiologist guides the catheter to the uterine arteries and injects tiny particles called embolic agents. These particles block the blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink and die.
Uterine fibroid embolization is typically performed under local anesthesia, and most patients are able to go home the same day. The procedure usually takes about one to two hours to complete. Before the procedure, the patient may be given medication to help relax and reduce pain.
One of the main advantages of uterine fibroid embolization is that it is a non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy, which is the complete removal of the uterus. UFE allows women to preserve their uterus and fertility while still effectively treating their fibroids. This is particularly important for women who wish to have children in the future.
Uterine fibroid embolization is considered a safe and effective treatment option for most women with symptomatic fibroids. However, it may not be suitable for everyone. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, have an active pelvic infection, or have certain types of fibroids may not be good candidates for UFE.
After the procedure, patients may experience some discomfort, cramping, or pelvic pain for a few days. Pain medication can be prescribed to manage these symptoms. Most women are able to return to their normal activities within a week or two, although strenuous exercise and sexual intercourse should be avoided for a few weeks.
The success rate of uterine fibroid embolization is high, with studies showing that about 85-90% of women experience significant improvement in their symptoms after the procedure. The majority of fibroids also shrink in size, resulting in reduced pain and bleeding.
As with any medical procedure, there are potential risks and complications associated with uterine fibroid embolization. These can include infection, damage to the uterus or surrounding organs, and the possibility of the fibroids regrowing over time. However, serious complications are rare.
In conclusion, uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that offers an effective alternative to hysterectomy for women with symptomatic fibroids. It allows women to preserve their uterus and fertility while providing relief from the symptoms caused by fibroids. UFE has a high success rate and is generally considered safe, although it may not be suitable for all patients. It is important for women to discuss their options with a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment approach for their individual situation.