What is a Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)?
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a non-surgical treatment for uterine fibroids. UFE is clinically proven to reduce the major symptoms of fibroids, including pelvic pain, excessive and prolonged menstrual bleeding, and frequent urination.
Uterine fibroids (also called leiomyomas or myomas) are growths that develop from the cells that make up the muscle of your uterus. Fibroids can range in size from small pea-sized growths to large lesions more than 6 inches wide. As they grow, they can distort the inside as well as the outside of the uterus, sometimes growing large enough to completely fill the pelvis and abdomen. Fibroids are most common in women aged 30-40 years but can occur at any age. Fibroids occur more often in African-American women than in white women; they also occur at a younger age in African-American women and grow more quickly.
The uterus is unique in that it has multiple blood supplies. When a fibroid grows in the uterus, it receives almost all its blood supply from the uterine arteries. Therefore, blocking agents that are injected into the uterine artery reach the tumor and cut off blood flow to the fibroid, while other blood vessels continue to supply blood to the remaining healthy uterine tissues. With the blood supply is blocked, the fibroid will shrink in size.
Patients who are ideal candidates for UFE include women who:
- Have symptomatic fibroids
- Want to keep their uterus
- Do not want surgery or may not be good candidates for surgery
Approximately 80% of patients will see a reduction in abnormal uterine bleeding and pelvic pain. Early studies in the USA and in Europe suggest that the fibroids do not recur after embolization.
Other benefits of UFE include:
- Shorter average hospital stay
- UFE: less than one day
- Hysterectomy: 2.3 days
- Faster average return to work
- UFE: 10.7 days
- Hysterectomy: 32.5 days
- Fewer complications (after 30 days)
- UFE: 12.7%
- Hysterectomy: 32%
You should not have UFE if you are pregnant or want to become pregnant. The effects of UFE on the ability to become pregnant, on the ability to carry a fetus to term, and on the development of the fetus have not been determined. While there are reports of women becoming pregnant and having successful pregnancies after uterine fibroid embolization, there are no scientific study results establishing the safety of UFE on fertility and pregnancy. As with any medical intervention, you should discuss the most current clinical data with your doctor before deciding on the fibroid treatment option that is best for you.