Uterine Fibroid Embolization

uterine fibroid embolization

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is an alternative to a hysterectomy and a non-surgical way to preserve the uterus. This treatment blocks the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink. UFE is clinically proven to be successful in reducing the major symptoms of fibroids, including pain, excessive and prolonged bleeding, and frequent urination. It is “minimally invasive,” requiring only a small nick in the skin. The procedure lasts less than one hour, and most patients are back to work on average within 11 days.

If you need treatment for fibroid-related symptoms but want to preserve your uterus and avoid surgery, UFE may be right for you. We can help you decide which treatment option is best for you based on your medical history and the location and size of your fibroids. You should not have this procedure if you are pregnant. UFE is not intended for women who desire future pregnancy. The effects of UFE on the ability to become pregnant and carry a fetus have not been determined. You should discuss these issues with our physicians.

You can ask Hill Medical, your general health practitioner, your OB/GYN or our interventional radiologist (the physician who actually performs the procedure) about UFE.

There are different treatment options available for women with symptomatic fibroids. Medical treatment involves administering hormone therapy. However the effect is temporary. Surgical treatments include removal of fibroids from the uterus (myomectomy) or removal of the uterus itself (hysterectomy). Recovery following hysterectomy or myomectomy is typically 6-12 weeks. Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a relatively safe, non-surgical, outpatient procedure which involves less risk, blood loss and trauma to the body, and usually a one to two week recovery.

  • Preserves the uterus without surgical risks or hormone replacement therapy
  • Decrease in menstrual bleeding from symptomatic fibroids
  • Decrease in pelvic pain and pressure
  • Smaller abdomen
  • Improvements in urinary dysfunction
  • Covered by most insurance companies
  • Shorter hospital stay than hysterectomy
  • Quicker return to work and normal activities than hysterectomy
  • Overall significant improvement in patient’s physical and emotional well-being

If you would like additional information or would like to schedule an appointment for uterine fibroids or UFE, please contact The Huntington-Hill Imaging Center at (626) 737-2563 and ask to speak to our patient advocate for UFE.

Let your doctor know if you have any allergies to certain medications, contrast agents used in X-rays, gelatin, iodine, or any other allergies. Be sure to ask our radiologists questions related to the procedure and your follow-up UFE care.

UFE is performed by one of our interventional radiologists at Huntington Health in Pasadena, California. An interventional radiologist is a doctor who uses x-rays and other imaging techniques to see inside the body and treat conditions without surgery.

During UFE, you will be given pain medications; but you will remain awake. The radiologist inserts a small tube called a catheter through a small nick in your skin into an artery at the top of the thigh. Using X-ray imaging, the catheter is guided into the uterine artery. Then tiny round particles, known as microspheres, are injected through the catheter into the blood vessels leading to the fibroids. The microspheres block blood flow to the fibroids. This results in both fibroid shrinkage and fibroid symptom relief. The microspheres remain permanently in the blood vessels at the fibroid site. This process is repeated in the other uterine artery so that the blood flow feeding the fibroid is completely blocked.

The UFE procedure takes about one hour to complete and most patients go home that day. Most women feel abdominal pain or cramping, similar to menstrual period cramping, shortly after the procedure. Medication will be given to keep you comfortable after the procedure.

In clinical studies conducted at eleven medical centers in the U.S., 132 women who had problems with uterine fibroids were treated with UFE. After twelve months, the majority of women in the study had significant reduction in menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and frequency of urination. 96% of women treated by UFE reported being satisfied with the results of their UFE at twelve months.

Overall, UFE is a safe procedure for treating symptomatic fibroids. Infrequent complications have been reported following UFE. You should talk with our radiologists about the risks associated with this procedure. Please contact The Huntington-Hill Imaging Center, Inc. at (626) 737-2517 and ask to speak to our UFE patient advocate for more detailed information.