In recent years, there has been considerable research aimed at developing less invasive alternatives to fibroid surgery. One such therapy, Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) has shown to be very effective in controlling fibroid symptoms. Together with Stamford Health's Fibroid Center, we offer nonsurgical and minimally invasive therapy to treat fibroid symptoms.
What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Also called Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE), this approach preserves the uterus with little to no blood loss. The procedure involves placing a small catheter tube into the artery of the upper leg and then feeding it into the uterine artery, which supplies the fibroid tumors with blood. To block blood to the fibroids, tiny beads are injected into this artery, leading to significant fibroid shrinkage, thus alleviation of symptoms. The doctor performs this procedure under live Xray with contrasts. It takes about an hour and is completed under moderate sedation; you're neither fully awake nor asleep.
What is the recovery like after the procedure?
In most cases, you can return home the same day; the recovery time is much shorter compared to hysterectomy. You'll be able to eat right after the procedure, and walk around after a few hours of rest.
Pain from Uterine Fibroid Embolization is caused from the fibroid tumor muscle dying and usually feels like a very bad menstrual cramp. While pain tends to be the worst the night of the procedure, it's usually significantly better by the following day and doesn't last more than about 4 days.
Also common is a mild degree of "post-embolization syndrome," or a flu-like bug with a mild temperature, nausea, vomiting and fatigue, which can last a week.
Many return to work within 1-2 weeks and are given medications to put any pain at bay from the comfort of home.
Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization a permanent solution?
In the overwhelming majority of cases, the success rate is very high with women permanently cured of uterine fibroid symptoms. UFE has been performed safely for more than 20 years to hundreds of thousands of women and is highly recommended by both the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Society of Interventional Radiology.
How will Uterine Fibroid Embolization impact my sex life and/or my ability to get pregnant?
Despite the concerns, many women note either improved or unchanged sex drive after the procedure, without any negative impact. Only in rare cases could UFE have an adverse effect on a woman's sex life.
You can, indeed, still get pregnant after having had UFE. While it's not a fertility procedure, conception rates after UFE are similar to the main surgical alternative (myomectomy). However, we recommend waiting 6 months before trying to conceive. This is because the tissues need to return to a more normal state for the procedure to have taken full effect.
Can Uterine Fibroid Embolization help those with adenomyosis?
Adenomyosis is a non-malignant condition in which there exists an abnormal amount of endometrial tissue (inner lining of uterus) within the myometrium (thicker, more muscular layer of the uterus). While different from fibroids tumors, adenomyosis can also cause heavy periods and increased bleeding. The standard treatment has been hysterectomy, but 75% of those with adenomyosis can be cured with UFE.