Uterine Fibroid Embolization
What is uterine fibroid embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization, is a minimally invasive procedure to treat uterine fibroids. Fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus.
UFE consists in injecting tiny particles into the uterine arteries that supply the fibroids. These particles block the arteries, causing the fibroids to shrink and die.
The procedure is performed by an interventional radiologist under local anesthesia.
The 3 Steps of the Procedure
A catheter is inserted via needle puncture into the artery at the groin or wrist and is then maneuvered to the uterine arteries under x-ray guidance.
Durable polymer microparticles the size of grains of sand are injected to obstruct the blood vessels that supply the fibroids.
The fibroids, whose blood supply has been cut off, significantly shrink in size.
What is the purpose of uterine fibroid embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization is used to treat symptoms caused by uterine fibroids.
These symptoms, which vary depending on the location, size and number of fibroids, include:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding that can lead to anemia
- Pelvic pain and pressure
- Pain during intercourse
- Abdominal swelling
Uterine embolization shrinks the fibroids, causing symptoms to disappear.
What happens during a uterine fibroid embolization procedure at the American Hospital of Paris?
Uterine fibroid embolization is performed at our interventional radiology unit in a safe environment by a multidisciplinary team comprising an interventional radiologist, a gynecologist and a fertility specialist.
- On the day of the procedure, you will be brought to a vascular radiology room.
- Although painless, the procedure is performed under local anesthesia. For maximum comfort and safety, an anesthesiologist and nurse will remain by your side throughout the procedure, which lasts one hour.
- The procedure causes no scarring. You can resume walking immediately if the catheter was inserted at the wrist, or after four hours if it was inserted at the groin.
- Fibroid ischemia* induced by the embolization will cause pain for two to three days following the procedure.
The interventional radiology unit of the American Hospital of Paris is one of the only places in France to offer epidural anesthesia following an embolization procedure. Administered by the anesthesiologist, the epidural spares the patient from feeling any pain.
The recovery time after an embolization – three to four days – is much shorter than for surgery.
*Fibroid ischemia is the stoppage of blood supply to the fibroid, which deprives the cells of oxygen and causes them to die.
How to prepare for uterine fibroid embolization
You must not eat or drink after midnight on the night before the procedure. At the preoperative anesthesia consultation, tell your doctor what medications you are currently taking. The day of the procedure, take your routine medicines with a sip of water as instructed by the anesthesiologist. You also need to bring any radiology exams and lab reports relating to your uterine fibroid(s).
At the American Hospital of Paris, uterine fibroid embolization can be performed as an outpatient procedure or an overnight inpatient procedure if extra monitoring and pain management are needed.
You can resume your regular activities after three days.
What are the outcomes of uterine fibroid embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization significantly relieves the symptoms (heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, abdominal swelling) caused by uterine fibroids over the three months that follow the procedure.
For most women, this outcome appears to be similar to that achieved through myomectomy, the surgical removal of uterine fibroids.
Studies have shown an improvement rate ranging from 78 to 94 percent, or even the complete stoppage of pain and other symptoms. Although it is possible to have a baby after the procedure, the impact of UFE on fertility and pregnancy remains open to debate. Because of this incertitude, the decision to undergo the procedure is always made in coordination with our fertility unit.
The risk of relapse is low.
What are the side effects of uterine fibroid embolization?
The risk of significant complications after UFE is very low compared to that of surgical treatment.
Complications may include:
- Fibroid degeneration may lead to bacterial growth and infection in the uterus. In this case, antibiotic treatment is prescribed. In extreme cases, this type of infection may require a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
- The unintentional embolization of another organ. In very rare cases, uterine fibroid embolization reduces blood supply to the ovaries, which could lead to early menopause. To date, no cases of a neighboring organ being embolized have ever occurred at the American Hospital of Paris.
- The ovaries begin to function normally two to six months after the procedure and the menstrual cycle resumes. The risk of becoming sterile due to the uterine fibroid embolization has become increasingly low since the introduction of calibrated microparticles.
However, if you want to have children, we encourage you to discuss with your doctor how the procedure might affect fertility and pregnancy.
In accordance with Article 53 of the French code of conduct for medical professionals, physician fees must be determined with tact and moderation and fall within the national average.
You will benefit from the medical expertise and safety of a bona fide hospital and receive exclusive care delivered by our anesthesiology team and paramedical staff, all in a pleasant and comfortable environment.