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How does the Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) work?

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a nonsurgical, minimally-invasive procedure that blocks the blood supply to fibroids, causing them to shrink. It can also be used as an alternative to hysterectomy for women who do not want surgery but still want to control their symptoms of fibroids.

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous tumors in the uterus, and they are very common in women over the age of 30. They don’t usually cause any problems if they’re not causing any symptoms. However, some women find them uncomfortable because of where they are situated within their body. They can make your periods heavier and more painful than usual, along with other symptoms such as bloating and pain during sex. A uterine fibroid embolization works by blocking off blood supply to the tumor so it will shrink or go away completely. This can help relieve some of your symptoms from having this growth inside you.

 

doctor explains uterine fibroid embolization to patient

 

The interventional radiologist uses imaging to help identify the number, size and location of your fibroids.

This is done with a contrast material that can be injected into your body using a needle. As the contrast flows through your blood vessels, it helps make certain things visible to the ultrasound transducer in real time.

This procedure is done right in the doctor’s office.

The uterine fibroid embolization technique uses tiny particles that block off blood flow to reduce fibroid symptoms.

During the procedure, your doctor will insert an instrument called a catheter into your body through an incision in your groin or wrist. The doctor uses an x-ray machine to guide the catheter into the uterus and to inject the particles that block blood flow to the fibroids. Next, special materials are injected into this area to cut off blood supply to the fibroids. 

The end of the catheter is placed in or near your fibroid, and a substance called embolization material is injected into it. These particles are made up of materials that block off blood flow and cause the artery to shrink. 

These materials are often made of polyvinyl alcohol sponge (PVA) fibers or microspheres (tiny beads). The fibers or microspheres cause tiny clots to form within the arteries that feed oxygen-rich blood to the fibroids. This prevents nutrients from reaching them, so they wither away over time as they starve for oxygen and nutrients.

You will be given a sedative to make you comfortable and relaxed. 

These particles used are made of tiny plastic beads and are injected in a controlled manner that allows for slow and steady shrinkage.

The result is an immediate reduction in size and weight, which can help reduce the pressure on surrounding organs and tissues. This can improve your symptoms, such as heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain, as well as allow you to live more comfortably with the fibroid tumor. 

This stops oxygen-rich blood from reaching your fibroid, depriving it of nutrients and causing it to shrink over time. Normally, your body reabsorbs the fibroids over time.

The entire process usually takes 2-4 hours, and then you can go home.

The uterine fibroid embolization procedure itself usually takes about 30 minutes to complete. 

Because this procedure does not involve removing any tissue, you should be able to go home shortly after a brief observation period. You will probably be asked to rest for the remainder of the day.

You can resume your activities within a few days, including driving and working (if not too strenuous). You may need to take it easy for a few days, but you should be able to return to all of your normal activities within a week.

After the fibroids have been embolized, it is normal to experience cramping and spotting for a few days. You will have almost no downtime after UFE, especially compared to myomectomy or hysterectomy.

For most women, heavy bleeding ends immediately or is markedly decreased within 3 months of the procedure.

 

Am I a candidate for a UFE?

Women who cannot or do not want to undergo major surgery may be candidates for UFE. Although it is not always the case, women who may want to become pregnant in the future will want to choose UFE over a hysterectomy to maintain this possibility. Some women choose UFE when possible because they need a faster return to work or other activities and the faster recovery time allows them to be back at work sooner.  

We have been providing the Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure (UFE) for women in Georgia for years. Reach out to us today for a consultation to see if the UFE is right for you.

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