Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

A Minimally Invasive Option for Uterine Fibroids

Minimally invasive treatment for women who suffer from uterine fibroids or adenomyosis, uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization (UAE), uses a tiny tube called a catheter to inject small particles into the arteries in your uterus. The particles target and block the blood vessels feeding the fibroids, starving them and causing them to shrink while leaving the rest of the uterus mostly untouched. 

UFE is not a surgery and therefore does not require anesthesia, does not need a big incision, and does not require a lengthy hospital stay or recovery. The best part is that all of this is done through a tiny nick in the wrist or the groin, and most patients go home the same day or the next morning. At the Division of Interventional Radiology at Rochester Regional Health, you can schedule yourself for a uterine fibroid embolization consultation without a referral and get on the road to less pain and bleeding.

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What are Uterine Fibroids?

Fibroids, or leiomyomas, are benign tumors that develop in a variety of sizes and locations within your uterus. They are the most common tumor in the female reproductive organs, and while benign (non-cancerous), they can cause symptoms – typically severe bleeding or other symptoms as the fibroids grow and push on nearby structures.

UFE Angiography
UFE Angiography

It is very rare (less than 1% chance in your lifetime) that fibroids will turn into cancer. 

Who is at Risk for Developing Fibroids?

50-70% of women aged 35+ have uterine fibroids. Increased risk factors for developing fibroids include: 

  • Family history of fibroids
  • Being Black or Hispanic
  • Higher Body Mass Index (BMI)

If you are at an elevated risk, be sure to mention it to your interventional radiologist during the consultation. Fibroids can be diagnosed using both a pelvic exam and a pelvic ultrasound. After your consultation, further testing such as an endometrial biopsy or an MRI of your pelvis may be performed to further evaluate your fibroids.

Uterine Fibroid Symptoms

Many women have fibroids that do not cause any symptoms. They are often discovered routinely during a medical exam, and most are small. If you are suffering from pain or other problems caused by uterine fibroid tumors, UFE may be an excellent option.

Here are the following common signs and symptoms of fibroids:

  • Heavy monthly periods (including irregular, prolonged menstruation or bleeding between periods)
  • Anemia that can cause low blood counts
  • Pelvic pain and pressure
  • Enlarged abdomen/enlarged uterus
  • Frequent need to urinate/bladder pressure
  • Back pain
  • Constipation and bloating
  • Leg pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Infertility

If you think you may have a fibroid or want to learn more, contact the Interventional Radiology team today.

What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

UFE is a nonsurgical procedure performed by an interventional radiologist (IR) physician that treats fibroids.

During this procedure, your IR shrinks your fibroids by blocking off their blood supply. Using a catheter (a slender tube) that is directed into the arteries of the pelvis using x-ray imaging, tiny particles (smaller than the size of a grain of sand) are injected directly into the arteries that supply your fibroids. These particles selectively block the feeding blood supply of the fibroid, causing them to shrink over time, reducing or resolving most symptoms.

This minimally invasive procedure helps patients avoid a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus). Compared to hysterectomy, UFE is safer, less invasive, has shorter recovery, and allows women to keep their uterus.

Do I Need a Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

We will discuss all aspects of your history at our consultation to determine if you are a good candidate for a UFE. We will work with your OB/GYN doctor and your primary care doctor as well, and if another treatment or no treatment is a better option for you, we will tell you that and refer you appropriately.

If you are a good candidate for UFE, we will go through all your options, the procedure details, and the risks and benefits to empower you to make the best decision for yourself. If needed, we will schedule any necessary imaging, tests, and bloodwork before the procedure. We will then manage all your fibroid issues during the procedure and immediately afterward, and finally, we will follow you in our IR clinic to make sure the procedure did what it was supposed to do.

What to Expect

Your UFE procedure is covered by most insurance companies and plans. Performed in our award-winning campuses at Rochester General Hospital and Unity Hospital, this state-of-the-art procedure allows you to return home quickly after your procedure and be back to your normal activities within a week!

What to Expect on Your Procedure Day

You will be asked to arrive one hour before your procedure in the Division of Interventional Radiology.

During your procedure, our nurses in IR will be giving you moderate sedation to minimize any pain and anxiety. Most women sleep through the majority of the procedure.

Our IR angiography suite looks similar to an OR with a large x-ray camera overlying the table. Access is gained either through a groin artery or a wrist artery, depending on anatomy and which site the physician deems is better and safer for access.

The procedure time is approximately 45-60 minutes and often includes a nerve block in your pelvis to minimize post-procedural discomfort. 

After the procedure, you will be monitored in the IR recovery area for 4 hours, as it is expected that women will have “post-embolization syndrome”, which is the normal reaction of the body to these fibroids losing their blood supply; this includes pelvic cramping, nausea, malaise, and general discomfort. Given our vast experience with this procedure, we will give you a special combination of medications and other treatments to specifically combat this. While many women will go home that same night if they are feeling well, some women also may need to stay overnight on the IR service to make sure their post-procedural pain is well managed.

female doctor illustration

Getting Started on Fibroid Treatment

If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids or have symptoms, call us today for a consultation. During the consultation, we’ll discuss your symptoms and treatment options. Most insurance companies will cover uterine fibroid embolization. Call (585) 922-5UFE to schedule your uterine artery embolization consultation today.
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