What should I expect after having uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)?

Dr. John C. Lipman, MD
Vascular & Interventional Radiologist

If you are suffering with symptomatic uterine fibroids, uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) may be an option for you. In experienced hands, the UFE procedure should take less than 1 hour to perform. Patients will have a period of bed rest; typically 1-2 hours (if a simple closure device to seal the opening at the skin is used) or up to 6 hours if it is not. The opening at the skin is covered by a regular band aid. After 6 hours, patients are typically discharged home and will recover over the next 5-7 days. Everyone will experience some degree of pain after this procedure which for many is similar to their monthly menstrual pain. The pain is most intense the day of the procedure and will improve each day over the next 4-5days and controlled with analgesics, anti-inflammatories and localized heat (i.e., heating pad). Patients are often back to work 1 week after the procedure and can resume full activities in 2 weeks.

Over 90 percent of patients will get significant improvement in symptoms or complete resolution with UFE. If fibroids are completely infarcted on follow-up MRI with contrast, they will never come back.

The risks for UFE are very low and significantly lower than any of the surgical options for fibroids. There are some women who no longer menstruate after UFE. This is seen rarely in women 40-45 years of age (1-2 percent) which increases to 5-10 percent by age 50 and as high as 20-25 percent for those over 50 years of age. About 5 percent of women will temporarily pass some fibroid material vaginally and on a rare occasion will need to have a hysteroscopic removal (like a D & C) of a fibroid that will not pass vaginally. Finally, there is a rare infection risk.

About 85 percent of patients who undergo uterine fibroid embolization experience a durable, long-lasting and significant result. After uterine artery embolization, expect minor side effects such as mild cramping or tiredness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.