Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally-invasive medical procedure used to block off blood supply to uterine fibroids and shrink them. Typically performed by an interventional radiologist at a Houston interventional radiology clinic, UFE is a safe procedure that can help treat noncancerous fibroids. Patients often experience alleviated symptoms a short time after the treatment. If you are interested in UFE or have one scheduled for soon, you should know what to expect from the procedure. Your doctor will usually walk you through the process, but it does not hurt to go in prepared.
Before preparing for UFE, your radiologist will perform an ultrasound or MRI to determine if you are an ideal candidate. This test will also give them an idea of where your fibroids are located and their size and number. Your radiologist will also order a pregnancy test to determine if you are pregnant because UFE is not recommended for pregnant patients. During your initial visit, you should bring up any allergies you have, medications you take, current medical conditions, and recent illnesses. Your radiologist may recommend you avoid some medications and ask that you fast for 8 hours before the procedure. If you do not need to stay overnight, plan for someone to drive you home.
Sedation and Sterilization
On procedure day, you will change into a hospital gown and lie on the table. A technician or nurse will connect you to relevant monitors and insert an IV line into your vein. They will also sterilize and cover the treatment area with a surgical drape. Next, your radiologist will apply a local anesthetic to the area to numb it. You may feel a brief sting or burn before you lose all sensation.
Your doctor will then make a small incision at the treatment site and, through it, insert a catheter into an artery in your groin. They will use fluoroscopy to guide the catheter to the arteries in your uterus and, once there, inject embolic agents into the area. The agents are designed to block the blood supply. During catheter insertion, you may feel some pressure but will not experience significant discomfort.
After injecting the agents into your uterine arteries, your radiologist will withdraw the catheter. They will apply pressure to the area to staunch the bleeding, then apply a device to seal the hole in your artery. This process should not leave any visible stitches on your skin. If you are not experiencing any discomfort, you may go home the same day. Some patients may stay overnight for pain control and observation.
After you leave the hospital, you may experience pelvic cramping for several days, accompanied by low fever and mild nausea. Your doctor will prescribe some medications to help you manage these symptoms. They will also share some pointers on keeping the treatment area lean and dry, including bathing instructions. Contact them if your discomfort becomes severe or worrying.
Should You Consider Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Approximately 30 to 50 percent of women of childbearing age have uterine fibroids. The primary reason to opt for UFE is to treat uterine fibroids that have become a nuisance. If your fibroids are causing severe pain and other uncomfortable symptoms like a distended abdomen, you should discuss this treatment with your radiologist. They can help you prepare for UFE and walk you through the entire process. Call or visit a radiology clinic today to get started.