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UCLA Fibroid Treatment Program

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Uterine Artery/Fibroid Embolization

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) or Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) has proven successful in significantly decreasing or eliminating fibroid related symptoms of bleeding, pressure and pain in women with uterine fibroids. Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a minimally-invasive alternative to surgery used to treat women who are having symptoms from fibroids. This procedure preserves the uterus. A specialized physician carefully places a small catheter into the uterine arteries and inserts small particles that block the blood supply to the fibroids which causes them to shrink and allow symptoms to be alleviated. This treatment usually takes 1 to 2 hours and requires one night stay or less in the hospital. The procedure does not require general anesthesia and recovery time is significantly reduced compared with surgical alternatives. Currently this procedure is FDA approved for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids who have no desire for future pregnancy.



Example of Uterine Fibroid
Image of Uterine Fibroids. Uterine Artery Embolization; pre-treatment and post-treatment. UCLA Uterine Fibroid Program.
(A) Pre-treatment.                         (B) Post-treatment

What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

Uterine fibroid embolization, is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed by an Interventional Radiologist. An Interventional Radiologist is a medical doctor who has extensive experience in diagnostic and vascular radiology and uses imaging to guide therapeutic procedures. The physician accesses the arteries supplying the fibroids through a small catheter and administers small particles called microspheres. The microspheres block the vessels to the fibroids, depriving them of the oxygen they need to grow. The oxygen deprivation results in the fibroids shrinking. The microspheres remain permanently in the blood vessels at the fibroid site and protect the fibroid from regrowth.

What should I experience during the treatment?

The entire fibroid treatment typically lasts one to two hours, and is performed as an outpatient therapy. Patients usually have to stay up to 23 hours after the procedure is complete. The uterine fibroid embolization procedure begins with a tiny nick in the groin. This small opening provides the interventional Radiologist with access to the femoral artery in the upper thigh. Using specialized X-ray equipment, the doctor passes a catheter (small tube) into the femoral artery, to the uterine artery, and guides it near the location of the fibroid. When the doctor has reached the location of the fibroids, microspheres (small spheres) are injected through the catheter and into the blood flow leading to the uterine fibroids.

The catheter is then moved to the other side of the uterus using the same small opening in the thigh. Once the Interventional Radiologist has completed embolization of the uterine artery on both sides, the catheter is gently removed. Pressure is applied to the puncture site for a few minutes to prevent any bleeding and then a small Bandage is placed.

Once the procedure is complete, you may experience some discomfort such as abdominal cramping or pain. You and your doctor will determine at that point what medications may be needed to keep you comfortable.

Life after the Treatment

On average, 85-90 percent of women who have had the procedure experience significant or total relief of heavy bleeding, pain and/or bulk-related symptoms. The procedure is especially effective for multiple fibroids and large fibroids. Recurrence of the treated fibroids is very rare.

FAQ

What types of fibroids can be treated?

Your physician will determine if your fibroids are suitable for treatment. Uterine Fibroid Embolization can be used for submucosal, subserosal, and intramural uterine fibroids. These are terms that are used to describe the location of the fibroid within the uterus. Fibroids that are pedunculated (hanging from a stalk) have to be closely evaluated to determine if they can be treated. Essentially all other fibroid types can be effectively treated with Uterine Fibroid Embolization. Multiple fibroid can be treated in one session.

Could my fibroids come back after the treatment?

Although this treatment may be successful in destroying the fibroids causing painful symptoms, at a later time, new fibroids may grow, become symptomatic and require additional treatment. This is true for all fibroid treatments, except hysterectomy where the entire uterus is removed. However, since fibroids grow very slowly, repeat treatments are usually not required.

What are the benefits of Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
  • Effective alternative to surgery and hormonal treatment
  • Minimally invasive - no surgery
  • Minimal hospital stay
  • Quick return to normal activities
  • Preserves the uterus, cervix and ovaries
  • Significant improvement in your quality of life


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