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Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive treatment for fibroid tumors of the uterus. The procedure is also sometimes referred to as Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE), but this term is less specific and is used for conditions other than fibroids. Fibroid tumors, also known as myomas, are benign tumors that arise from the muscular wall of the uterus. It is extremely rare for them to turn cancerous. More commonly, they cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pain in the pelvic region and pressure on the bladder or bowel.

In a UFE procedure, physicians use an X-ray camera called a fluoroscope to guide the delivery of small particles to the uterus and fibroids. The small particles are injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. These block the arteries that provide blood flow, causing the fibroids to shrink. Nearly 90 percent of women with fibroids experience relief of their symptoms.

Your doctor may recommend Uterine Fibroid Embolization to stop severe pelvic bleeding caused by:

  • Trauma
  • Malignant gynecological tumors
  • Hemorrhage after childbirth

UFE is an image-guided, minimally invasive procedure that uses a high-definition X-ray camera to guide a trained interventional radiologist, to introduce a catheter into the uterine arteries to deliver the particles. The procedure is typically performed in the operating room. You will be positioned on the examining table. A nurse or technologist will insert an intravenous (IV) line into a vein in your hand or arm so that sedative medication can be given intravenously.

You may also receive general anesthesia. The area of your body where the catheter is to be inserted will be shaved, sterilized and covered with a surgical drape. Your physician will numb the area with a local anesthetic. A very small nick is made in the skin at the site. Using X-ray guidance, a catheter is inserted into your femoral artery, which is located in the groin area. A contrast material provides a roadmap for the catheter as it is maneuvered into your uterine arteries. The embolic agent is released into both the right and left uterine arteries by repositioning the same catheter that was originally inserted. Only one small skin puncture is required for the entire procedure. At the end of the procedure, the catheter will be removed and pressure will be applied to stop any bleeding. The opening in the skin is then covered with a dressing. No sutures are needed. Your intravenous line will be removed. You will most likely remain in the hospital overnight so that you may receive pain medications and be observed. This procedure is usually completed within 90 minutes.

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