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Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

Treatment Overview

Uterine fibroid embolization is a treatment to destroy or shrink fibroids. Fibroids are growths on or in your uterus. Sometimes they're called fibroid tumors, but they aren't cancer.

You may be awake during the procedure. But you will get medicine to help with pain. And you may be given medicine to help you relax. First the doctor will put a thin, flexible tube into a blood vessel in the upper thigh. The tube is called a catheter. Then the doctor sends a solution through the catheter. It prevents your fibroids from getting blood. Without blood, the fibroids shrink or die.

The treatment usually takes 1 to 3 hours. After the procedure, you may stay in the hospital overnight or go home the same day.

You may have some pain for a few hours to a few days. But sometimes pain can last for a couple of weeks. It may take about 1 to 2 weeks to fully recover.

This treatment should reduce pain and bleeding from fibroids.

What To Expect

When the procedure is over, you will likely have several hours of bed rest. You may stay in the hospital overnight for more observation and pain control. Or you might go home the same day.

You may have pain for a few hours to a few days after the procedure. But sometimes pain can last for a couple of weeks. Your doctor may prescribe pain medicine. Or your doctor may talk to you about trying an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). You may also have mild nausea for several days.

You may have some vaginal bleeding or discharge for several weeks to months after the treatment. Some people also pass a fibroid from the vagina after several months. This can happen even a year later. If you do pass fibroid tissue, see your doctor right away to be sure that you don't get an infection.

It may take about 1 to 2 weeks to fully recover and return to your regular activities. You will likely have a follow-up appointment several weeks after your procedure.

Why It Is Done

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is used to shrink or destroy uterine fibroids. It is one type of treatment used in people who don't want to treat fibroids with a hysterectomy, don't plan to be pregnant in the future, and haven't reached menopause. Although there are no size limits, UFE is not recommended for all types of fibroids.

Learn more

How Well It Works

UFE is an effective treatment. It reduces the size of fibroids. And, in most cases, it improves symptoms. But fibroids can come back. Some people need more treatment several years after they have UFE.

Risks

Some risks of uterine fibroid embolization include:

  • Post-embolization syndrome. This is a set of symptoms that can last for a couple of weeks after the procedure. It can include pain, fever, or nausea.
  • Problems with the ovaries or early menopause. And it may increase the risk for certain pregnancy problems.
  • Infection.
  • Unplanned hysterectomy. In rare cases, a hysterectomy is needed to treat an infected or damaged uterus.
  • Pulmonary embolism.

Credits

Current as of: February 11, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Divya Gupta MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology, Gynecologic Oncology

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