Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat fibroid tumors of the uterus, which can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pain, and pressure on the bladder or bowel. It uses a form of real-time x-ray video called fluoroscopy to guide the placement of embolic agents to the uterus and fibroids. These agents block the arteries that provide blood to the fibroids so they stop bleeding heavily and eventually shrink. Studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of women who undergo UFE experience significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms.
What happens during Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
You will have already discussed the treatment options with the physician doing the procedure. Prior to your procedure, we’ll take you to a preparation area where our nurses will start an IV in your arm and give you any medication that may be required prior to your procedure. We may give you medicines to protect your kidneys, antibiotics to help prevent infection, and anti-nausea medications. You may have a Foley catheter (tube) placed into your bladder.
When it’s time to begin, we’ll take you to a special room that is similar to an operating room. We often use conscious sedation, or moderate anesthesia. In this case, you’ll remain slightly awake throughout the procedure. We will monitor your pulse, blood pressure, and your breathing throughout the procedure.
During the procedure, you’ll lie on your back on a table and we’ll clean the area where the catheter (a thin, hollow tube) will enter your body using a special solution to minimize infection. We’ll place sterile drapes over your body and an interventionalist will apply a local anesthetic so you don’t feel any pain.
Your interventionalist will make a small incision in your arm, groin or upper thigh to insert the catheter. We’ll use an iodine-based contrast material (dye) to make the blood vessels stand out by taking special video x-ray pictures and by looking at a special TV monitor (fluoroscopy). Using an x-ray “map” to guide us, we’ll advance the catheter through the blood vessels until it reaches the blood vessels supplying the uterus. Then, we’ll administer tiny beads through the catheter, which travel to the tiny arteries going to the fibroid. Some of the beads may also go to the normal uterus so you may experience some cramping, nausea, or vomiting following the procedure.
At the end of the procedure, your interventionalist will withdraw the catheter and either apply pressure or place a special device in the blood vessel to stop the blood from leaking out. Finally, we’ll put a bandage over the incision.
The procedure can be done either as an overnight stay in the hospital, where you can get medications through your IV, or on an outpatient basis. Either way, we’ll give you special medications to help with the cramping and possible nausea.
After your procedure, your interventionalist will review the results of your Uterine Fibroid Embolization with you. We will ask you to return in about one month so we can check how well you have done after your procedure, and to see if you need any other procedures to make you better.