Uterine Fibroid Embolization

» Request a referral to specialist in uterine fibroid embolization at John C. Lincoln Hospitals.

John C. Lincoln Hospitals specialize in an innovative uterine fibroid treatment called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). The treatment removes uterine fibroid tumors quickly and safely, and is performed in about one hour.

Uterine fibroid embolization is well-tolerated, with a low rate of significant complications and offers a short recovery time — as fast as one week.

Uterine fibroid embolization is supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which considers this treatment for uterine fibroid tumors a "safe and effective option for appropriately selected women." Unlike hysterectomy, where the uterus is surgically removed, uterine fibroid embolization leaves the uterus intact.

How Uterine Fibroid Embolization Is Performed

At John C. Lincoln Hospitals, uterine fibroid embolization is performed by highly trained interventional radiologists, who use specialized imaging technologies to see inside the body and operate on tissues without surgery. The procedure, itself, is performed in an angiography suite, which resembles an operating room with a modern X-ray machine.

uterine fibroid embolization
In uterine fibroid embolization, a catheter releases particles that block blood flow to the fibroid, to "starve" it of nutrients.

The patient will remain conscious throughout the uterine fibroid embolization procedure. Only a relaxing mild sedative is administered; therefore, the procedure is not painful. Cardiac activity, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration are all monitored constantly during the procedure.

An interventional radiologist starts the procedure by inserting a small catheter into the artery at the groin. Only a small incision — a "nick in the skin," less than one quarter of an inch in diameter — is necessary.

A moving X-ray (fluoroscopy) helps guide the tube to the uterine artery. Once the uterine fibroid tumor is located, the next step is to block blood flow to blood vessels that feed the fibroid. To do so, tiny round particles, the size of grains of sand, are delivered through the catheter, into these blood vessels. Without a supply of blood, uterine fibroids shrink.

Uterine fibroid embolization usually requires a hospital stay of one night, in which patients are observed for pain management. Patients typically experience cramping within five minutes of delivery of the fibroid-shrinking agent. However, the pain is managed well by oral medication.

After Fibroids: The Recovery Process

The expected recovery course after UFE is as follows:

  • Days 1-2: Largely bed rest, with limited activity.
  • Days 3-6: Low fever, slightly increased activity, pain slowly lessens.
  • Days 7-10: Increasing activity, requiring less medication. Vaginal discharge may be present.
  • Days 10-14: Nearly normal, although patients often report a mild decrease in energy levels.

Longer term, what should patients expect after the procedure?

  • Studies show that after five years, approximately 80 percent of women who have had UFE continue to experience significant or total relief of heavy bleeding, pain and other symptoms.
  • The procedure is effective for multiple fibroids.
  • Recurrence of treated fibroids is rare.

In one study, in which patients were followed for six years, no embolized fibroid grew back.