Uterine fibroids (leiomyomas or leiomyomata) are very common, non-cancerous (benign) growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. They can range in size from very tiny, to larger than a cantaloupe. Occasionally, they can cause the uterus to grow to the size of a five-month pregnancy. While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women.
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods and unusual bleeding, which can lead to anemia.
- Pelvic pain and pressure
- Pain in the back and legs
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bladder pressure leading to a frequent urge to urinate
- Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation and bloating
- Abnormally enlarged abdomen
A number of treatment options exist for fibroids, including uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), which is a procedure without surgery. An interventional radiologist makes a small nick in the skin and inserts a tiny catheter into the uterus. Using image-guidance, the physician injects small particles through the catheter into the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroid. This blocks the blood flow to the fibroids, causing them to shrink and die. Therefore, patients do not have to undergo a hysterectomy.
- Nearly 90% of women with fibroids experience relief of symptoms
- UFE is typically used as a minimally-invasive treatment option to avoid a hysterectomy
- The procedure is performed while the patient is sedated and does not require general anesthesia
- Potential complications of UFE, such as infection and injury to the uterus can occur, though the complication rates remain lower than myomectomy and hysterectomy
- Adenomyosis, another condition of the uterus that causes very similar symptoms to fibroids can also be treated successfully with uterine artery embolization
- Although there are concerns for fertility after uterine fibroid embolization, there have been countless success pregnancies after UFE
Before the procedure
You will visit Dr. Vancura in clinic to discuss your condition and the procedure. You will be able to have all of your questions answered with Dr. Vancura and the interventional radiology nurse specialist, Lou Anna Fulton. If you have not had recent blood tests or pelvic MRI, we will let you know if the tests need to be repeated.
After the procedure
UFE usually requires an overnight stay at the hospital; you should be able to return home the day after the procedure. Most women resume light activities in a few days and normal activities within one to two weeks.
Pelvic cramps, mild nausea and low-grade fever are possible after the procedure. Cramps are most severe during the first 24 hours after UFE, but will improve rapidly. Oral or IV medications can be used to control pain and cramping.
Vaginal spotting or discharge may occur after the procedure. It’s also common for menstrual bleeding to decrease after UFE.
As with any minimally invasive procedure, there are risks and potential complications. Patients should consult with their interventional radiologist for a full discussion of the risks.
For more in-depth information about UFE, visit http://www.sirweb.org/patients/minimally-invasive-treatments/