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Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine fibroid embolization (or uterine artery embolization) is a minimally invasive procedure that cuts off the blood supply to uterine fibroids and causes them to shrink.

As the fibroids shrink, your symptoms should go away. Nearly 90 percent of women with uterine fibroids experience relief from abnormal uterine bleeding, chronic pelvic pain (bulk symptoms) and frequent urination.

Interventional radiologists at Indiana University Health perform uterine fibroid embolization procedures under local anesthesia in a catheterization lab. The procedure takes between 60 and 90 minutes to complete. Most patients return to regular activities in about a week.

To reach the fibroids, the interventional radiologist places a catheter in an artery in the groin. The doctor uses X-ray images (fluoroscopy) to guide the catheter to the uterus. Small particles are injected into the uterine artery that feeds the fibroids. The particles block blood supply to the fibroids, and the fibroids gradually begin to shrink.

Normal menstrual cycles usually return after a uterine fibroid embolization procedure. However, 1 to 5 percent of women (most over the age of 45) will experience menopause after the procedure (in part because they may already be in perimenopause).

Uterine fibroids generally do not reappear after embolization. In some cases, a hysterectomy may be needed.

Pregnancy after embolization is possible, but success rates are not known. Doctors do not recommend the procedure for women who want to have children. Be sure to discuss your plans for having children with your doctor before considering embolization.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Uterine Fibroid Embolization Treatment Information

What to Expect

Your doctor will gather information about your symptoms a few days or weeks before your embolization procedure. He or she will also take images of the uterus to note the location, size and number of fibroids. Imaging tests include:

If you are bleeding heavily between menstrual cycles, the doctor may also take a biopsy of the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) to rule out cancer.

Follow your doctor's instructions the night before the procedure. Typically, you will be asked to:

You should plan to stay overnight at the hospital on the day of the procedure.

Procedure

On the day of the procedure:

You will most likely remain in the hospital overnight for observation and pain management. You may experience intense abdominal cramping and pain. Your pain will be controlled with a narcotic while you are in the hospital. You should be able to return home the day after the procedure.

Results

The interventional radiologist who performs the embolization will discuss the results of the procedure with you as well as any special instructions to follow after you return home. He or she will also coordinate follow-up care with your primary care physician or gynecologist.

Recovery Time

After you return home, you may feel other symptoms, including:

Your doctor will prescribe medicine for pain and fever.

Recovering from uterine fibroid embolization takes much less time than recovering from a hysterectomy. Most women feel back to normal within one or two weeks.

You may notice a reduction in menstrual bleeding after embolization, especially with the first cycle after your procedure. Over time, menstrual bleeding should stabilize to a level that is much less than before the procedure. You may miss a cycle or two or, rarely, stop having periods.

Within two to three weeks after embolization, you should feel relief from other symptoms such as:

As the fibroids continue to shrink, your symptoms will continue to disappear.

Physician Follow-Up

You can expect to see your doctor within three weeks after an embolization procedure. The doctor will check to make sure you are recovering and feeling well.

The doctor will schedule MRI or ultrasound imaging if there are any issues after the procedure. The physician can compare the original imaging to the follow-up imaging if necessary. However, most women do not need to have any follow-up imaging.


Uterine Fibroid Embolization Locations & Physicians

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