Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a fibroid treatment that is an effective alternative to surgery and hormonal treatment. The treatment is performed by an interventional radiologist who uses minimally invasive techniques to block the blood supply to the fibroids. In 90 percent of cases, UFE leads to a significant improvement in quality of life, and most women experience significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms.
The best fibroid specialists in NYC utilize a number of diagnostic techniques to make treatment recommendations on each patient’s case. By taking these results into consideration, as well as other risk factors including age, medical history, and overall health, they can determine if UFE is appropriate. If not, the VIVA EVE team offers a variety of medically sound fibroid treatment options, including surgery.
UFE is also an effective treatment for patients with adenomyosis, a similar uterine condition. If you’re experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of fibroids. UFE could be the ideal procedure for you. It's a fertility-preserving option with a relatively quick recovery.
What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)?
UFE is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure for the treatment of fibroids that has been performed successfully for over two decades. Approximately 14,000 successful UFE procedures are performed annually in the United States, and the procedure is covered by most major insurance companies.
While there are surgical and other options for the treatment of fibroids, we at VIVA EVE specialize in uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE. There are many advantages to this minimally invasive procedure. Learn more about UFE below and why we think it's the best fibroid treatment for most women.
How Does Uterine Fibroid Embolization Work to Treat Fibroids?
Fibroid tumors need a blood supply to stay alive and grow. The UFE procedure blocks the blood supply to the fibroid (without affecting the blood supply to the uterus). Without a blood supply, the fibroid shrinks and becomes inactive over time. UFE is effective on most sizes and types of fibroids and multiple fibroids can be treated at the same time.
What Are Fibroids?
Fibroids are usually non-cancerous tumors that may or may not cause symptoms. While some women have no symptoms at all, others experience pelvic pain, abdominal swelling and heavy menstrual bleeding. Uterine artery embolization is a bleeding fibroids treatment that can ease your symptoms without surgery. Your gynecologist specializing in fibroids may recommend it if the following is true:
You’re not nearing your menopause
You have uterine fibroids that are causing heavy bleeding, severe pain
You are looking for a minimally invasive non surgical option
You want to keep your uterus.
Symptoms of fibroid degeneration and calcification can drastically affect your quality of life if not treated promptly. That’s why the best fibroid surgeons in NYC at VIVA EVE believe in early interventions when you’re still able to prevent infertility while relieving painful symptoms such as:
Heavy, prolonged or painful menstrual periods with or without clotting
Pelvic pressure and pain, distended and bloated abdomen
Moderate to severe menstrual cramps
Pain during sex and loss of libido
Weak bladder control, frequency in urination due to bladder pressure
Inexplicable weight gain
An enlarged uterus
Anemia (low blood count) that can lead to a lack of energy and fatigue
Lower back pain and pain in the back of the legs
What is the Uterine Fibroid Embolization procedure like?
A VIVA EVE UFE is performed when the patient is under moderate sedation (not asleep) and sometimes a local anesthetic. It does not require general anesthesia.
The interventional radiologist makes a tiny incision in the wrist or groin and inserts a catheter into the radial or femoral artery. Using real-time imaging, the doctor guides the catheter through the artery into the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroids. The doctor then releases tiny particles — the size of grains of sand — into the uterine arteries to stop the flow of blood to the fibroid.
The outpatient VIVA EVE UFE procedure typically lasts less than one hour, and you will likely go home within 2 - 3 hours.
Benefits and Risks to Consider
There are both benefits and risks to consider before deciding to have uterine fibroid embolization. One of the biggest advantages of UFE is the success rate - nearly 90% of women who undergo UFE experience significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms. Other benefits of the best treatment for large fibroids include:
Lower complication rates than conventional surgical fibroid treatments -- for example, from infection or injury to the uterus
Much shorter recovery time -- a few days to a week, compared to weeks for conventional surgery
A uterus that is left intact -- compared to the removal with a hysterectomy
Recurrence of UFE-treated fibroids is lower than with myomectomy.
No surgical incision needed, only a small nick in the skin that doesn’t need stitches
General anesthesia isn’t required
Fibroids rarely grow back afterward
No overnight stay is needed
Works on multiple fibroids at the same time
Of course, as with any medical procedure, there are some associated but rare risks. Your VIVA EVE doctor will review these with you in light of your personal circumstances as part of your pre-procedure screenings.
The risks your fibroid specialist in NYC may consider include:
Short-term allergic reaction or rash (treated with topical or oral allergy medications, typically sold over-the-counter)
Temporary absence of a menstrual period (in a vast majority of cases women start getting their period very soon after the procedure, but some patients do report that they missed 1 or 2 periods following UFE)
Vaginal discharge or infection (extremely rare and very easily treated with antibiotics)
Post-embolization syndrome, with patients complaining of a fever, some pain, and fatigue following the procedure. Might require prescription medication
Non-target embolization (extremely rare if performed correctly by a trained physician)
Premature menopause (only happens in patients over 45 who were nearing menopause anyway)
How do I get screened for Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
Either your doctor or a VIVA EVE physician can determine whether you're a good candidate for a UFE procedure. The consultation process includes an initial consultation, some testing and imaging, a review of your test results, and a final pre-operative consultation with the specialist doctor who will perform your UFE so that you and the doctor can decide together whether a UFE is right for you.
Your pre-UFE appointments, like the UFE procedure itself, are covered by most major insurances.
When Uterine Fibroid Embolization Is Recommended
Most women who are good candidates for hysterectomy or myomectomy are good candidates for UFE. In addition, many candidates for whom major surgery presents additional risks may be candidates for the less-invasive VIVA EVE UFE.
Preparing for Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Let your fibroid specialist know if there’s any chance you could be pregnant. Provide a list of all medications you’re on, including supplements. You may be asked to discontinue taking any medications that could interfere with your blood’s ability to clot, such as aspirin, Coumadin or ibuprofen.
You’re asked not to drink or eat anything for several hours before the procedure. Check with the fibroid clinic about whether you need to discontinue any other medications you’re on. It is mandatory to have a person over 18 to accompany you home after the procedure.
What to Expect During the Procedure
You’re put under conscious sedation, which means you’re relaxed and sleepy, but conscious. A local anesthetic numbs your groin area. Your uterine specialist makes a small incision and inserts a tiny catheter into the fibroid’s blood supply. You may feel some pressure, but you shouldn’t feel pain.
A substance is injected that cuts off the blood supply to each fibroid, which causes it to shrink in size and die. The procedure takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes. You need to lay flat for several hours after the procedure and stay in the hospital overnight, but you should be able to go home the next day.
Recovery from Uterine Fibroid Embolization
While at the VIVA EVE facility, the post-procedure care is provided by skilled nurses and your interventional radiologist. During the recovery, you may experience some discomfort, similar to menstrual cramps. You and your VIVA EVE doctor will determine what medications may be needed to keep you comfortable (in most cases, over-the-counter medication is enough).
Our doctors will personally call you to follow up for the first 2 days post-procedure. During the call we will discuss any questions you might have and help make sure you are on the right track with everything. Most women are able to return to light activity within a few days after the UFE treatment and are usually back to work and to normal activity within a week.
As the fibroids shrink over several months, most women report significant improvement in the way they feel around their third period cycle post-procedure, though many experience symptom relief sooner. You will also receive calls from us 1 week, 30 days and 90 days after the procedure.
You might possibly get a prescription for an MRI. You will have a choice to schedule a brief follow-up visit at that time to review the films and any symptoms you might have.
Will I get my flat stomach back after UFE?
The most likely cause of weight gain and abdominal bloating with fibroids is the growth of the fibroids themselves. As that fibroid grows, it takes up more space, and becomes heavier. As a result, you experience weight gain and bloating as your body adjusts to the presence of the mass within you.
Multiple and large fibroids jutting out of the uterus can cause the abdomen to appear swollen or larger in size. As the fibroids begin to shrink after the UFE procedure, you will notice that your stomach is becoming less and less distended. It usually takes several menstrual cycles for you to start noticing the difference.
How soon after UFE can I have sex?
You should be able to resume your regular activity, including sexual activity and exercise 7 days post-procedure. Many women report a dramatic improvement in their libido and their sex life overall following UFE.