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Ramon G. Halum, MD – IU Health Physicians Radiology
Uterine fibroids, benign lumps that form on the uterus, can cause a variety of symptoms for women, including debilitating cramping and heavy menstrual periods, painful intercourse, and the urge to urinate. For premenopausal women experiencing symptoms and who do not plan to have children, uterine fibroid embolization is an effective minimally invasive treatment to help women regain quality of life.
A non-surgical treatment, UFE is performed by a skilled interventional radiologist in a hospital. The procedure begins with a pelvic angiogram (X-ray with use of special dye) with placement of a thin, flexible catheter in the left and right uterine arteries. The traditional access point for the catheter is the femoral artery, however, more UFEs are being performed from the wrist artery, which reduces the recovery period. Once the position of the catheter in the uterine artery is confirmed, a particle solution is injected to cut off the blood supply to all of the fibroids at the same time. The procedure can take between 45 and 90 minutes with patients under moderate sedation.
UFE usually requires an overnight hospital stay for observation and pain management. Typically, patients leave the hospital the following day and are back to regular activity within seven to 10 days. Women undergoing UFE experience few complications, and the success rate is relatively high (85 to 90 percent) without the risk of traditional surgery.
UFE is not recommended for women who have bleeding after menopause, uterine cancer, active infection or an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control. Uterine fibroids also can be treated by medication to shrink the fibroids and manage symptoms; surgical removal of the fibroids (myomectomy); or hysterectomy.
Women experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding, pain or other symptoms should consult their primary care doctor or gynecologist for evaluation. If uterine fibroids are suspected, patients may be referred to an interventional radiologist to determine whether UFE is a possible treatment.
Ramon G. Halum, MD, specializes in interventional radiology. He is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Radiology and can be reached by calling the office at 317.617.4808. For more health information, subscribe to Strength in You at iuhealth.org/StrengthInYou