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Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

What is a uterine fibroid?

A uterine fibroid is a non-cancerous growth found on the walls of the uterus. They can vary in size from less than one inch to 12 inches in diameter. Some take years to develop while others grow rapidly over months. A woman may have one or more fibroids at the same time. Approximately 20-80 percent of women develop fibroids by age 50. It is unclear why, but fibroids are more prevalent in African American women and women who are overweight.

Symptoms of a uterine fibroid
Most women with a uterine fibroid have mild or no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Heavy prolonged periods (seven days or more)
  • Abnormal spotting between periods
  • Anemia (low iron count)
  • Frequent and/or urgent urination
  • Constipation or bloating
  • Pelvic, leg and/or back pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Common uterine fibroid treatments

  • Hormonal medications, such as birth-control pills or gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa)
  • Hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries
  • Myomectomy, which is the surgical removal of the fibroids)
  • Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which is a non-surgical treatment option

What is UFE?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which is also known as uterine artery embolization (UAE), is a non-surgical, uterine-sparing alternative that shrinks fibroids by shutting off their blood supply. The procedure is performed by an interventional radiologist trained to diagnose and treat medical conditions using image-guided techniques.

How UFE is performed
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) involves inserting a slender hollow tube called a catheter through a tiny incision in the upper thigh into the targeted uterine artery. Uterine arteries supply blood to the uterus and, consequently, to the fibroids within it.

When the catheter is in position, tiny particles called microspheres are injected to block the blood supply feeding the fibroid(s) causing them to shrink and soften. The procedure is performed under light (conscious) sedation and local anesthesia. Patients often spend the night at the hospital to ensure they are comfortable after the procedure and go home the next day.

In clinical studies, patients indicated more than 90% symptom resolution within three to 12 months. The timing for improved symptom resolution is often due to the severity of the symptoms prior to the procedure. The less severe the symptoms, the faster the recovery.