About the procedure
Uterine Artery Embolization (sometimes called Uterine Fibroid Embolization or UFE) is a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat benign (non-cancerous) fibroid growths that develop in the wall of the uterus. Fibroids are not cancerous tumors per se, but can cause severe symptoms in some women, including heavy menstrual bleeding, swelling of the abdomen, and pelvic pain. UFE is a procedure in which the arteries that feed these fibroids and allow them to grow are embolized, meaning that blood flow to them is blocked so that the tumors are deprived of nourishment and thus shrink and die.
Interventional radiologists perform this procedure by introducing a tiny catheter through a tiny incision in your groin into the femoral artery. The catheter is guided using fluoroscopy into one or both of the uterine arteries, and then a contrast fluid is injected to help the doctors locate the fibroid growths to be embolized. Finally a number of tiny embolizing particles are injected, which surround the fibroid and block blood flow to it. The procedure needs to be repeated for as many arteries as are feeding the fibroid.
Uterine fibroids are the most common tumors found in the female genital tract. For many women they do not cause severe symptoms, but when they do, Uterine Artery Embolization is considered an effective non-surgical alternative to hysterectomy or other more radical treatments. 85 to 90% of women who undergo this procedure report significant reduction of symptoms.
What to expect
If your doctors decide that you are a candidate for this procedure, it will be performed in a hospital by MTV IR interventional radiologists, and usually requires an overnight stay. Medical staff will insert IVs and other monitors to measure your vital signs, and then your groin area will be shaved and washed with a special soap. After a numbing medication is injected into the area, the interventional radiologist will insert the catheter into the large femoral artery there and guide it into place in the uterine arteries using X-rays. Depending on your preference and that of the radiologist, you may either be moderately sedated, or given general anesthesia. The procedure takes under an hour.
Afterwards, the catheter in your groin is removed and you will be asked to lie flat while the doctors monitor your progress. It is important to remain as motionless as possible during this recovery period to prevent bleeding and allow the puncture in your artery to close properly. After your release from the hospital you should avoid driving for 24 hours, limit your activities, and avoid physical exertion or heavy lifting for several days. Full recovery usually takes 7 to 10 days.
Getting the best interventional radiology care possible
MTV IR is a team of experienced interventional radiologists who consult with other doctors or hospitals to bring state-of-the-art minimally invasive treatment to their patients. We provide the most comprehensive uterine fibroid treatment options in Dallas, because we work closely with the doctors we consult with and with their patients to provide an interdisciplinary “team” approach to treating this disorder.