Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

General Information | Scheduling, Insurance and Preparation | What to Expect


General information General Information

About Uterine Fibroid Embolization

With uterine fibroid embolization, small particles are injected into the arteries that feed the fibroid, blocking its blood supply.

Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally-invasive, non-surgical procedure used to treat symptomatic uterine fibroids. This safe, simple procedure was approved by the FDA. It reduces the bleeding, pain and other symptoms of uterine fibroids in 90% of women who have the treatment.

With UFE, a catheter is guided through the femoral artery to the uterus through a tiny incision. Using x-ray guidance and contrast material, the specific arteries that feed the uterine fibroid are identified. Those arteries are injected with small particles. The particles wedge into the uterine vessels, blocking the flow of blood to the fibroid. Without a blood supply, the fibroid tissue dies and shrinks. All fibroids in the uterus can be treated in the same session. This procedure is performed under minimal sedation and typically takes approximately one hour.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization versus Surgery

Uterine fibroid embolization is used as an alternative to surgery to treat uterine fibroids and minimize their symptoms.

Women may choose fibroid embolization over surgery for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Significantly shorter recovery period
  • Lower complication rate
  • Minimal or no scarring
  • Potentially preserve fertility
  • Can't or don't want to receive a blood transfusion, which may be necessary during surgery
  • Can't receive general anesthesia

Risks Involved in Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Following are some risks when having uterine fibroid embolization:

  • Possible damage to a blood vessel.
  • Bruising, or bleeding or infection at the puncture site.
  • Allergic reaction to the contrast material used during the procedure.
  • Radiation exposure; however, it is well below the level that generally causes adverse affects.
  • 2-3% chance of passing a small amount of fibroid tissue after the procedure. If this occurs, you may need to have a D & C (dilatation and curettage) to remove the tissue and prevent bleeding and infection.
  • 1-5% chance of menopause beginning shortly after fibroid embolization. However it is rare for this to occur in a woman under the age of 45. The risk of early menopause is higher with surgery.
  • Infection in the uterus, which may require a hysterectomy. This occurs in less than 1% of cases.
  • Uterine fibroid symptoms may not be sufficiently reduced.

It is not yet known if fibroid embolization affects fertility; however, women have had successful pregnancies after the procedure.

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Scheduling, Insurance and Preparation Scheduling, Insurance and Preparation

Procedure Locations

Consultations for uterine fibroid embolization are done at RIA Endovascular.

The procedure is performed at the following Radiology Imaging Associates partner hospitals in the Denver, Colorado area:

Call 720-493-3406 to schedule a consultation.

Scheduling

To schedule a consultation to discuss UFE, call 720-493-3406.

  • Medical Center of Aurora
  • Littleton Adventist Hospital
  • Porter Adventist Hospital
  • Sky Ridge Medical Center
  • Swedish Medical Center

Insurance Coverage

Uterine fibroid embolization is usually covered by insurance. Check with your insurance company to be sure. Please bring your insurance card with you to your consultation.

Conditions to Let Us Know About

When you have your consultation for uterine fibroid embolization, let the radiologist or nurse know if any of the following circumstances apply to you:

  • Previous reaction to iodine
  • Previous reaction to anesthesia
  • Coagulation disorder or currently taking blood thinning medication
  • Kidney dysfunction or need for dialysis

Preparation Guidelines

If you are a candidate for uterine fibroid embolization, you will be given detailed preparation guidelines. Following are some of the basic guidelines; however, you may receive additional or differing guidelines based on your specific situation. Please contact us at 720-493-3406 if you have any questions.

  • Do not eat or drink anything but clear liquids for 8 hours before the procedure; do not drink anything for 4 hours before the procedure.
  • Prepare for an overnight stay in the hospital.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home from the procedure.

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What to Expect What to Expect

Before the Procedure

Prior to the date of the procedure, you will undergo a pelvic ultrasound and possibly a blood test. You will fill out paperwork and consent forms so the radiologist will know your medical history.

During the Procedure

A fluoroscope allows the radiologist to see real-time images of the catheter as he guides it through the arteries to the site of the uterine fibroid.

Here is generally what will happen during a uterine fibroid embolization procedure:

  1. You will change into a gown.
  2. A nurse will answer any questions you have then start an intravenous (IV) line in your arm.
  3. The nurse will set up various devices so your heart rate and blood pressure can be monitored throughout the procedure.
  4. You will be given conscious sedation through the IV to help you relax.
  5. A catheter is placed in your bladder and a PCA (patient controlled anesthesia) pump will be connected to your IV. This allows you to push the button and have pain medicine administered to you so that you do not need to wait for a nurse if you have pain after the procedure when you are back in your room.
  6. You will be positioned on a table.
  7. The site of the groin incision will be cleansed and anesthetized.
  8. A fluoroscope will be moved into position over your abdomen.
  9. The groin incision will be made and the catheter will be inserted into the femoral artery.
  10. Using the fluoroscope images, the radiologist will carefully guide the catheter to the location of the fibroids. The radiologist will inject contrast material into your arteries to increase visibility as the catheter is guided into the uterine arteries.
  11. After locating the specific arteries that feed the fibroid, the radiologist will inject tiny particles through the catheter into them to block the blood flow.
  12. After all known fibroids are treated, the catheter will be withdrawn and the incision cleaned and taped.

The procedure takes 1 to 2 hours. Afterward, you will be taken to a recovery area where you will be carefully monitored. This procedure usually requires an overnight stay in the hospital.

After the Procedure

Recovery

Many patients are discharged from the hospital the day after the procedure; however, some require a longer stay.

Following are potential side effects of the procedure:

  • Moderate to severe cramping and pain, which is usually alleviated with narcotic medication (PCA) and anti-inflammatory medications while in the hospital.
  • Nausea and fever which is usually treated with acetaminophen.

These side effects are significantly reduced after 12 hours. However, they may last several days.

Most women can resume light activities within a few days and return to their normal activities within 5-10 days. Heavy bleeding often improves during the first menstrual cycle following the procedures.

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