What is uterine fibroid embolization?

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

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization (UAE) is performed by interventional radiologists (IRs), physicians who are trained in image-guided, minimally invasive targeted treatments for medical conditions all over the body.

IRs place a thin catheter in to each uterine artery and inject tiny inert particles that cut off the blood supply to every fibroid in the uterus while they're watching on an x-ray camera called a flouroscope. Without a blood supply, the fibroids will soften and shrink.

The procedure can be performed as an outpatient, and the patient leaves the facility with only a bandaid at the top of her right leg (i.e., the entry site for the procedure). Over 90 percent of patients that undergo UFE will have significant or complete resolution of their symptoms (exs. heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, increased urinary frequency).

Uterine artery embolization is a minimally invasive hysterectomy alternative that preserves the uterus but is not advised for women who want to become pregnant. Sometimes called uterine fibroid embolization, the operation blocks the arteries carrying blood to the uterus as well as the fibroids. Interventional radiologists perform the procedure. The procedure typically relieves heavy menstrual blood loss as well as pelvic pressure and pain caused by large fibroids.

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Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure designed to block blood flow to a fibroid in order to shrink it. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in the uterus and may cause such symptoms as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, frequent urination, and back or leg pains.

In UFE, after light sedation and a local anesthetic are given, a small catheter is inserted in the patient's femoral artery (a long artery that runs from the lower abdomen into the thigh). Using imaging guidance, the catheter is threaded into the uterine arteries and specifically the arteries supplying blood to the fibroids. An embolic agent consisting of tiny microspheres, biologically inert particles made of a material similar to that used in contact lenses and smaller than grains of sand, is then injected into the arteries that supply blood to the fibroids. This selectively deprives the fibroids of their blood supply, causing them to gradually shrink.

While UFE is an option for most patients, some patients may still require more invasive procedures such as myomectomy or hysterectomy, which require longer hospital stays and recovery periods.

Dr. Kevin W. Windom, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Uterine fibroid embolization is a procedure in which small microscopic beads are injected into blood vessels that are supplying the uterus. The embolization causes a blockage of the blood flow to the uterus and also blockage of blood flow to the fibroids, and the hope is that the fibroids will start to degenerate and then over time deteriorate and become nonexistent. This is a procedure that I recommend to patients who have a single large fibroid that might be very difficult to remove surgically or patients who are not good surgical candidates due to their health. There is a significant debate in using uterine artery embolization for the removal of fibroids and then a patient becoming pregnant, and at this time there is no good long-term data on this scenario.

Uterine artery embolization (or UFE) is the process when a doctor inserts a catheter to help destroy the blood supply of the fibroid.

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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.