Uterine fibroids are very common non-cancerous (benign) growths that develop in the muscular wall of a woman’s uterus. Unfortunately, they can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, including pelvic pain and bleeding.
To alleviate the pain and suffering caused by uterine fibroids, there is a minimally invasive procedure called Uterine Fibroid Embolisation (UFE), which blocks the blood flow to the fibroid tumour, shrinking it and causing symptoms to subside.
When Is This Procedure Conducted?
Uterine fibroid embolisation is performed to reduce the symptoms caused by fibroids whilst avoiding surgical methods.
How Does This Procedure Work?
The aim of the procedure is to stop blood flowing into the vessels which supply the fibroids whilst preserving blood flow to the surrounding area.
The Interventional radiologist will usually guide a 2-3 mm catheter (tube) into each uterine artery (right and left). They will then inject micro particles (particles smaller than a grain of sand), into the uterine arteries to stop the blood flowing to the fibroids.
How Will I Feel After The Procedure?
Generally you will be required to stay in hospital overnight. Typically after the procedure, pain medications and drugs that control swelling are prescribed to treat cramping and pain.
Many women are able to resume light activities in a few days and the majority of women are able to return to normal activities within 7 to 10 days.
How Successful Is Fibroid Embolisation?
On average, 85-90 percent of women who have had the procedure experience significant or total relief of heavy bleeding and/or bulk-related symptoms.
The procedure is effective for multiple fibroids and large fibroids.
Recurrence of treated fibroids is very rare. Short and mid-term data show UFE to be very effective with a very low rate of recurrence. Long-term (10-year) data is not yet available, but in one study in which patients were followed for six years, no fibroid that had been embolised regrew.
There have been numerous reports of pregnancies following uterine fibroid embolisation, however prospective studies are needed to determine the effects of UFE on the ability of a woman to have children. One study comparing the fertility of women who had UFE with those who had myomectomy showed similar numbers of successful pregnancies. However, this study has not yet been confirmed by other investigators.
Summary of Benefits of Fibroid Embolisation
- Much less invasive than open or laparoscopic surgery
- No surgical incision is required—only a small nick in the skin – no stitches
- Can resume normal activities much earlier than surgery
- General anaesthetic is not required and the recovery time is much shorter, with virtually no blood loss.
- Follow-up studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of women who have their fibroids treated by uterine fibroid embolization experience either significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms.