Uterine Fibroid Embolization & Uterine Artery Embolization

At Emory, we offer the option to treat uterine fibroids with fibroid embolization (UFE), also called uterine artery embolization (UAE), an alternative treatment to more invasive surgical options.

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that occur in the wall of the uterus. They may be as small as a pea or as large as a cantaloupe. Uterine fibroids are very common, but they can lead to problems such as irregular or prolonged menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain or pressure, lower back pain, constipation, frequent urination or painful intercourse.

How common are they?

Approximately 20% to 40% of women 20 years and older will develop one or more of these uterine fibroid tumors before reaching menopause. The risk is higher among African American women, 50% of whom will develop fibroids during their lifetimes.

Can uterine fibroids require a hysterectomy?

Symptomatic uterine fibroids trigger approximately 150,000 hysterectomies each year. These account for one-third of all hysterectomies performed in the United States. Fibroid embolization can serve as an alternative to hysterectomy for some women.

Why should I consider UFE over more traditional treatment methods?

In the past, treatment of fibroids has been limited to surgery, either hysterectomy or removal of the fibroid. Over the last several years, uterine fibroid embolization, also called uterine artery embolization, has emerged as a safe and highly effective treatment for uterine fibroids and an alternative to hysterectomy.

Uterine fibroid embolization uses the same non-surgical, minimally invasive techniques that interventional radiologists have been using for over 20 years to control pelvic bleeding. With thousands of UFE procedures having been successfully performed worldwide, UFE and uterine artery embolization is now widely accepted in Europe and across the U.S. as a successful alternative to surgery.

What are the advantages of having UFE?

Advantages of this well-established and effective treatment for uterine fibroids include avoidance of major surgery, general anesthesia, and their associated risks.  Rapid recovery and very low complication rate are well-documented.

Published data report a 78-94% clinical success rate with no further therapy required in most UFE patients. Even in cases where uterine fibroid embolization is not completely successful, it is helpful in reducing fibroid size, facilitating further treatment.

Our experience at Emory Healthcare has yielded outstanding clinical results. We are delighted to offer UFE as a safe alternative to hysterectomy and an effective, non-surgical and minimally invasive therapy to our patients with problematic uterine fibroids.

What does the UFE procedure involve?

Uterine fibroid embolization is performed through a small puncture in an artery in the groin region. Contrast dye is injected to identify the blood vessels supplying the uterus and the uterine fibroids. Before embolization, the radiologist guides a wire and catheter into these vessels, and injects very small particles. These particles block the blood supply to the uterine fibroids, causing them to shrink over time.

What can I expect after the procedure and during recuperation?

Menstrual cramp-like pain can be expected after the uterine artery embolization procedure. One night of hospitalization is necessary so that intravenous medication can be given. By the following day, pain can usually be controlled with oral pain medications. Symptoms will gradually improve, with the ability to return to usual activity within about a week.

What does follow-up involve?

Follow-up includes a telephone consultation one to two days after the procedure and an in-office visit at one month and six months after the procedure. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is used to assess the size and shrinkage of the uterine fibroids. Usually, fibroids and the uterus shrink to approximately one half their size following UFE.

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