- November 3, 2020
- Posted by: cmcdonald
- Category: Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
How invasive is the Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) procedure?
UFE stands for Uterine Fibroid Embolization, which is a method of treating patients with symptomatic fibroids. Embolization is the medical word we use for blocking blood supply, and often in women with fibroids, bleeding is a predominant problem. By blocking the blood supply in a minimally invasive way, through a catheter inserted from the artery by the hip, we’re able to stop that bleeding by blocking the arteries which cause the problem. It’s really not very invasive. This is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. There’s no surgery, no cutting, and no marks. The procedure itself is relatively painless.
Why do women with uterine fibroids experience heavy menstrual bleeding?
Fibroids are extraordinarily common. One in four women have fibroids and 40% of African-American women have fibroids. Fibroids are benign. However, even though they’re benign, they can present with two major problems: heavy bleeding and what we call bulk symptoms – pressure, pain, bloating, and discomfort. The reason that there is heavy bleeding is that fibroids have an extraordinarily rich blood supply. Each month during a woman’s cycle, when the inner lining sloughs, the fibroids could expose. It can result in heavy bleeding. By doing minimally invasive procedures such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization, our goal is to block those vessels which are responsible for the bleeding and therefore stop the symptoms.
Is everyone with uterine fibroids a good candidate for UFE or are there some instances where a hysterectomy might be preferred?
Fibroids are an extraordinarily common problem causing heavy bleeding, as well as, menstrual pain and discomfort and cramping and bloating. Uterine fibroid embolization is a remarkably effective and well-proven alternative to hysterectomy in many cases for patients with symptoms related to fibroids. However, as with any procedure, it’s not perfect for every person. Certainly, hysterectomy still has a role. We would recommend hysterectomy in women who for some reason are having heavy bleeding later in life. We require that patients get an MRI and often an endometrial biopsy to make sure there’s nothing going on, which might require surgery, whether it be abnormalities in the ovary or some characteristics of fibroids, which would not be favorable to embolization. For women who would not wish to have any further children, for very large bulky fibroids, hysterectomy may be a better option.
What are the warning signs of uterine fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are extraordinarily common. Benign growths of the uterus in women present in 25% of women overall, and 40% of African-American women. Although they’re benign, they have a very rich blood supply. It can result in heavy bleeding during the period, bleeding between periods, or pain, bloating, and discomfort. The warning signs are just those – a combination of either what we call bleeding symptoms (menorrhagia) and/or bulk symptoms. The bleeding symptoms are periods that are unusually long, require multiple pad changes, result in anemia or bleeding between periods. The bulk symptoms are pressure, pain, bloating, discomfort during sexual activity, and a sense overall of the abdomen getting larger, requiring a larger belt size.