What to Expect During Uterine Fibroid Embolization: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Procedure and Recovery Process

woman experiencing pain in right abdomen

As per the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), fibroids affect 20-25% of women in their reproductive years. The prevalence of uterine fibroids is highest among women in their 40s and early 50s. While fibroids mostly appear during childbearing age, they can still occur in a less regressive stage after menopause.

If you’ve been diagnosed with uterine fibroids, your doctor must have recommended uterine fibroid embolization. It’s a minimally surgical procedure used by radiologists since 1995, but many women are still unaware of its effectiveness. 

This article explains uterine fibroid embolization in detail, including what to expect before, during, and after the treatment. We’ll also discuss why you should consider UFE over other methods and its potential risks. 

“If you have decided to seek medical attention for uterine fibroids, don’t hesitate and speak to our board-certified physicians. Call us at 877-673-4818 or fill out the new patient exam form for an appointment.”

What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

UFE classifies under uterine artery embolization. The minimally invasive procedure helps shrink uterine fibroids present inside the uterine cavity to alleviate pelvic pain, menstrual bleeding, and other symptoms. The process is less complicated and painful compared to surgical methods and requires a shorter hospital stay. 

During the procedure, a certified healthcare professional inserts a small catheter through an artery in the groin and guides it to the uterine artery, which supplies blood to the fibroids. 

This tube injects small particles into the artery, blocking the blood supply to the fibroids and causing them to shrink over time.

UFE is typically done on an outpatient basis and can be performed under local anesthesia. Recovery time is usually shorter than other methods, and most women are able to return to their normal activities within a week or two after their doctor recommends. 

When Do Doctors Recommend UFE?

Uterine fibroid embolization is an effective treatment for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids. Additionally, individuals that wish to avoid surgical procedures can consider UFE to remove fibroids without significant downtime.

Compared to most surgical methods, uterine fibroid embolization helps target all fibroids present in the uterus. It’s equally beneficial for individuals with less or more fibroids, because of its non-invasiveness.  

Doctors also recommend UFE for treating a less common cause of thick and painful cycles known as adenomyosis. 

The suitability and efficacy of this fibroid-removing method depend on several factors, including the location of fibroids and the individual’s desire for future pregnancies. 

It’s important to consult a professional intervention radiologist to determine if you should undergo UFE. Also, they can recommend you the best fibroid treatment based on your preferences. 

What Happens Before, During, and After Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

We’ve segregated the process into three subsections. In the before phase, you’ll know about the prerequisites, and in the after phase, you’ll get details about the recovery process. 

Go through all phases to understand all ins and outs of UFE to make an informed decision.

Phase 1: Before 

The UFE process begins with a doctor performing a thorough medical history and physical exam to determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure. The radiologist may also ask you to undergo diagnostic tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging or sonography, to assess the size and location of the fibroids. 

In addition, you may need blood tests to evaluate your blood count and clotting function. Some other tests might be recommended to determine your overall health and any other medical conditions you may have. 

You will most likely receive specific instructions from the medical center on preparing for the UFE procedure, such as fasting for a certain period before the treatment, and avoiding certain medications.

💡 Bonus: Tips to Prepare for a UFE Procedure 

Although there are no strict conditions to adhere to before the treatment. There are some helpful tips that will put your anxiety at ease while minimizing the risk of complications. 

  • Make sure to follow the doctor’s instructions carefully regarding any dietary restrictions or medication adjustments before and after the treatment.
  • Try to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing on the day of the procedure.
  • Bring a list of any medications you are currently taking and any allergies you have to share with the healthcare team.
  • Plan to take it easy for a few days after the treatment and arrange. It would be great if you could take any necessary time off work or other activities for faster recovery.
  • Ask the radiologist questions about the process during the initial consultation. It’ll help clear your doubts while preparing you for the treatment process. 

Phase 2: During 

The treatment begins with blocking the blood supply to the affected uterus area with fibroids. Next, the interventional radiologist administers a mild sedative to help you relax. The area in your groin where the catheter is inserted into an artery is numbed with a local anesthetic.

Under the guidance of X-ray imaging, the radiologist inserts a small catheter into the uterine artery that supplies blood to the fibroids. Once the tube is in place, tiny particles made of plastic or gelatin are injected to restrict the flow of blood to the fibroids. The particles will stay in place for some time, and it causes the fibroids to shrink. 

Typically, the procedure takes around 1-2 hours to complete and is done on an outpatient basis. After the procedure, the catheter is carefully removed, and if there are signs of bleeding from the punctured location, the doctor controls it using bandages.

Phase 3: After 

After the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery area, where you will be monitored for several hours. It’s normal to experience slight pain, or signs of nausea after the procedure, which are manageable using prescribed medications. Some patients might experience vaginal bleeding or discharge for a few weeks following the procedure.

Since the healing phase is very important, your doctor will provide you with specific instructions, such as:

  • Avoid Strenuous Activity

You should take rest for a few days after the procedure and avoid heavy lifting activities for at least a week. It gives your body ample time to recover from the procedure.

  • Take Medication as Directed 

Use the prescribed medication to manage any discomfort you may experience after the treatment. If you’ve any doubts regarding the medication, consult your physician for guidance. 

  • Apply Ice to the Groin Area

Most patients experience swelling or discomfort around the removal site, especially if the uterine fibroid tumors are present. Apply an ice pack at intervals to reduce swelling and to experience pain relief.

  • Avoid Sexual Activity

Even though uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive procedure, your body needs time to recover. Try to avoid engaging in sexual activities, especially intercourse, for at least 1-2 weeks after the treatment. Consult with your doctor to ensure having sex with your partner doesn’t affect your body. 

How Long Does Recovery Take?

The recovery time after a uterine fibroid embolization procedure can vary from person to person because of the severity and density of fibroids. However, most patients are able to resume their normal activities after 7-15 days of the procedure.

During the initial days days, you may experience slight pain, or nausea, with vaginal bleeding, which you can manage using medications. 

Over time, the benign uterine mass lesions will shrink, and your symptoms will improve. A few weeks after the procedure, you will have a follow-up appointment with the physician to evaluate your recovery and monitor your progress.

In a nutshell, you can expect significant symptom relief within a few months after the procedure. But, the full effects of uterine fibroid embolization may take up to six months to be completely realized.

The Advantages of Uterine Fibroid Embolization 

In an abstract, NCBI reported that “ UFE effectively alleviated fibroid-related symptoms for 71% to 92% of patients”. 

The abstract also stated that patient satisfaction is higher as UFE is safe with low chances of major complications compared to surgical methods like hysterectomy. (For more information, read Why Uterine Fibroid Embolization Is Better Than A Hysterectomy)

Considering these advantages, uterine fibroid embolization is the most preferred method for removing uterine fibroids. Here are some of its benefits:

  • Preserves the Uterus

Traditional surgery may require the removal of the uterus, but UFE preserves it. It is an important advantage for women who want to maintain their fertility or wish to avoid the physical and emotional effects of losing their uterus.

  • Effective Symptom Relief

The fibroid removal treatment is highly effective in relieving symptoms associated with symptomatic fibroids, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure/pain, and urinary frequency. In fact, studies have shown the procedure provided relief in up to 90% of women who underwent the treatment.

  • Low Risk of Complications

Uterine fibroid embolization is a safe method with very minimal risk of serious complications. The most common side effects are temporary and include cramping, pain, and nausea. Serious complications, including infection, are super rare and are treatable. 

  • Non-surgical Procedure

UFE is a non-surgical procedure that does not require general anesthesia or a surgical incision to shrink fibroids. Instead, a small catheter is inserted through a tiny incision in the groin and guided to the uterine arteries using real-time imaging. 

It makes the treatment a much safer alternative to traditional surgery, such as myomectomy.

Overall, uterine fibroid embolization offers multiple advantages over other fibroid-removal methods. It’s best to consult with a renowned and reliable UFE provider in Long Island to get your condition assessed and a suitable treatment plan.

How Successful is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

According to Penn Medicine, the success rate of UFE is around 85% (but it varies depending on several factors). When compared to the success rate of other procedures, uterine fibroid embolization shows better results.

The major factors that affect the success rate of uterine fibroid embolization include symptom relief, fibroid shrinkage, and patient satisfaction.

  • Fibroid Shrinkage

UFE does not remove the fibroids directly but cuts off their blood supply, making them shrink naturally. Studies have shown that UFE can result in a significant reduction in fibroid size, with some fibroids shrinking by as much as 50-60%.

The shrinkage in the fibroid size helps relieve the symptoms while improving your condition. 

  • Symptom Relief

Uterine fibroid embolization is highly effective in relieving symptoms associated with submucosal fibroids, such as heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, and urinary frequency.

Though, there are no statistics on it, as symptom relief varies from patient to patient. But most patients report relief from pre-treatment symptoms after a few weeks of the procedure. 

  • Patient Satisfaction

Most women who undergo UFE report high levels of satisfaction with the procedure. In fact, one study found that 94% of women who underwent this treatment would recommend it to others.

It’s important to note that the success of this fibroid-shrinking procedure can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the size and location of the fibroids, the severity of the symptoms, and the skill and experience of the interventional radiologist.

Make sure to follow the instructions provided by your doctor for quicker recovery and to prevent further growth of fibroids. 

How Long Do the Results of Uterine Fibroid Embolization Last?

Fibroids are notorious for appearing again, and that’s why most women planning to get UFE done think about the longevity of results. 

The lifespan of the results can range from 5 to 7 years, provided the patient follows all important measures and get regular checkups done. 

Also, it’s worth noting that while UFE can be effective in reducing fibroid size and relieving symptoms, it is not a guaranteed cure for fibroids. In some cases, additional treatment may be necessary if fibroids recur or symptoms persist. 

You should discuss all of your treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your individual situation.

The Risks and Complications of UFE 

When performed by a specialist in a well-equipped outpatient setting, most complications are rare. Though there are some risks, including fibroid expulsion or infection, the possibility is less than 1%. 

However, if you are close to menopause, you may stop having your period after the treatment. Some of the possible risks and complications include:

  • Pain

After the treatment, it is common to experience mild to moderate pain and cramping for several days. By taking the prescribed medication, you can alleviate these symptoms.

  • Bleeding

In rare cases, uterine fibroid embolization can cause bleeding. The abnormal uterine bleeding may require a blood transfusion or additional surgery to control. 

  • Allergic Reaction

The contrast dye used during the procedure can trigger allergic reactions in some patients. You must discuss these risks and potential complications with your healthcare provider before undergoing UFE. 

Overall, UFE is a safe method for shrinking fibroids and removing them naturally without surgical intervention. The risk of any side effects is minimal, and you can resume your regular routine after 1-2 weeks after the treatment. 

Get Expert Help at Mark Medical Care To Break Free from Fibroid Discomfort Today!

Suffering in silence due to the symptoms caused by the fibroid tissue won’t help, but it may worsen the situation. You can choose uterine fibroid embolization as it’s a viable alternative to traditional surgery that provides long-lasting relief from fibroid-related pain and bleeding.

At Mark Medical Care, our board-certified, fellowship-trained interventional radiologists perform the procedure carefully minimizing pain and discomfort. 

Our facilities are accredited by JCAHO and fully equipped to provide a comfortable and satisfactory experience when you entrust us with UFE treatment

Call us today at 877-673-4818 to learn more about the treatment and schedule your appointment to reclaim your health from fibroids.

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