After a diagnosis of uterine fibroids, it’s important to understand the complexities of fibroid management and whether uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is suitable as your treatment plan. This article defines ideal candidates for uterine fibroid embolization and outlines the benefits and considerations surrounding UFE. 

Whether you’re seeking alternatives to surgery or want to preserve your fertility, exploring the potential of UFE empowers you to make informed decisions about your fibroid treatment journey. Read on for everything to know about UFE and gain clarity on whether it aligns with your health goals and preferences.

What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)?

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure designed to treat uterine fibroids without the need for surgery. During UFE, a specially trained interventional radiologist inserts a thin catheter into the blood vessels that supply the fibroids. Small particles are then injected into these vessels, blocking blood flow to the fibroids and causing them to shrink over time. 

How Does UFE Work?

Uterine Fibroid Embolization works by targeting the blood supply to uterine fibroids, effectively starving them of nutrients and causing them to shrink over time. Without adequate blood supply, the fibroids undergo necrosis and are gradually reabsorbed by the body. This minimally invasive approach offers promising treatment outcomes, including relief from symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and pressure, with shorter recovery times and preservation of the uterus.

The Ideal Candidates for Uterine Fibroid Embolization

An ideal candidate for Uterine Fibroid Embolization typically exhibits symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, or pressure caused by uterine fibroids. Candidates may also seek alternatives to surgical intervention or wish to preserve their uterus. 

Additionally, those with multiple or large fibroids, contraindications to surgery, or concerns about fertility may find UFE particularly appealing. However, candidacy for UFE is determined on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as overall health, fibroid size and location, and treatment goals. 

candidates for uterine fibroid embolization

Consulting with a healthcare provider specializing in fibroid management can provide personalized insights and guidance regarding candidacy for UFE, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their treatment options.

Patient Considerations for UFE

There are several aspects of your situation and medical history that your healthcare provider will consider when determining if UFE is the right treatment option for you.

Patient characteristics:

  • Age: UFE is generally suitable for women of reproductive age, but considerations may vary for older individuals.
  • Overall Health: Individuals with underlying medical conditions may require additional evaluation to ensure the safety and efficacy of the procedure.
  • Fibroid Characteristics: Factors such as size, number, type, and location of fibroids influence candidacy for UFE.

Medical history:

  • Previous Surgeries: History of abdominal or pelvic surgeries may impact the feasibility of UFE and subsequent recovery.
  • Allergies: Allergies to contrast dye or other medications used during the procedure should be assessed.
  • Reproductive Goals: Individuals considering future pregnancy should discuss the fertility benefits of UFE in comparison with hysterectomy with their healthcare provider.

Benefits and Risks of Uterine Fibroid Embolization

UFE offers numerous benefits, including shorter recovery times, preservation of the uterus, and avoidance of surgical risks. While potential risks and complications exist, they are typically outweighed by the procedure’s benefits, making UFE a favorable option for many individuals with uterine fibroids.

Advantages of UFE

Here are the key benefits of UFE for eligible candidates:

  • Non-Surgical Approach: UFE is a minimally invasive procedure, avoiding the need for traditional open surgery and associated risks.
  • Shorter Recovery Time: Compared to surgical options like hysterectomy, UFE typically involves a shorter recovery period, allowing individuals to return to their normal activities sooner.
  • Preservation of Uterus: UFE preserves the uterus, making it an attractive option for women who wish to retain fertility or avoid the psychological impact of hysterectomy.
  • Symptom Relief: UFE effectively alleviates symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and pressure, enhancing overall quality of life.
  • Outpatient Procedure: UFE is often performed on an outpatient basis, minimizing hospital stays and associated costs.
candidates for uterine fibroid embolization

Potential Risks of UFE

Here are a few uncommon risks of the UFE procedure:

  • Infection: While rare, there is a slight risk of infection at the catheter insertion site or within the uterus following UFE.
  • Post-Embolization Syndrome: Some individuals may experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms such as fever, nausea, or fatigue after the procedure.

Preparing for a UFE Procedure

Preparing for a Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure involves several steps to ensure a smooth and successful experience. Patients may undergo pre-procedural evaluations, including imaging studies and blood tests, to assess fibroid characteristics and overall health. 

Discussions with healthcare providers help clarify expectations, address concerns, and outline post-procedure care instructions. Patients are typically advised to abstain from eating or drinking for a certain period before the procedure and may receive medications to manage pain or anxiety. 

Understanding the preparation process and following healthcare provider recommendations can help optimize outcomes and minimize potential risks associated with UFE.

UFE Aftercare and Recovery

After undergoing the UFE procedure, patients require some aftercare to promote optimal recovery and symptom relief. While experiences vary, individuals can expect to resume normal activities within a few days to weeks following the procedure. 

Patients may experience mild symptoms such as cramping, fatigue, or vaginal discharge, which generally subside over time. Healthcare providers typically recommend over-the-counter pain medications and applying heat therapy to alleviate discomfort. 

Follow-up appointments are essential to monitor progress and address any concerns. Adhering to post-procedure guidelines and maintaining open communication with healthcare providers ensure a smooth recovery and maximize the benefits of UFE.

Is a Uterine Fibroid Embolization Right for You?

If you are located near the Tampa, New Port Richey, or Phoenix areas, United Fibroid & Vascular Centers can perform your UFE treatments. Our experts use state-of-the-art laser technology to eliminate symptoms such as pelvic pain, pressure, and discomfort for women.

Schedule a fibroid treatment consultation to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a candidate for uterine fibroid embolization?

Candidates for uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) are typically women experiencing symptomatic uterine fibroids such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, or pressure. Those seeking alternatives to surgery, wishing to preserve their uterus, or with contraindications to surgery may find UFE particularly suitable. Factors such as fibroid size, number, and location, as well as overall health and treatment goals, influence candidacy for UFE.

Who should not get UFE?

Individuals who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, have an active pelvic infection, or have severe kidney or liver disease should avoid uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). Additionally, those with certain vascular conditions or allergies to contrast dye may not be suitable candidates for UFE. 

What size fibroid is too big for embolization?

The size of a fibroid alone does not necessarily exclude it from being treated with embolization. If a fibroid uterus is larger than about 20 weeks size there are special considerations in the decision about embolization. In such cases, alternative approaches or additional interventions may be necessary.