Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat uterine fibroids. Uterine fibroids are benign (not cancerous) growths in the uterus that can cause abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding, pain in the pelvic region, and pressure on the bladder or bowel.
Uterine fibroid embolization is performed by a specially trained radiologist in an outpatient or hospital setting. During the procedure, a thin, flexible tube known as a catheter is passed through a tiny nick in your groin, then through the large femoral artery until it reaches the small arteries that supply blood to the uterus. Tiny particles are then injected into these arteries to block blood flow to the fibroid(s), causing them to shrink and die.
This minimally invasive procedure, sometimes referred to as uterine artery embolization (UAE), offers significant advantages over surgery, including:
- Faster recovery
- Less pain
- Less scarring
- Fewer complications
- Shorter hospital stay, if hospitalization is required
The majority of women experience more normal menstrual periods following the procedure. In some cases, women stop having periods.
The effect of uterine fibroid embolization on fertility is not yet fully understood, therefore the procedure is not recommended for women who wish to have children in the future. It is also not recommended for women who:
- Have no symptoms from their fibroid tumors
- Have cancer
- Have inflammation or infection in the pelvis
- Are pregnant
- Suffer from renal insufficiency (kidneys don't function properly)
- Are allergic to contrast material