For fibroids of moderate or large size, uterine artery embolization is an alternative to hysterectomy. Uterine fibroid embolization is a non-surgical procedure that cuts off the blood supply to the fibroid causing it to shrink. Uterine fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths in the uterus.
How Long Will it Take?
- The procedure itself lasts about an hour and a half.
How Does the Procedure Work?
- Local anesthesia is administered to the area
- Intravenous (IV) sedation is used to keep the patient comfortable but conscious.
- A small incision is made in the groin.
- The radiologist punctures the femoral artery, and inserts a small tube called a catheter into the artery.
- The radiologist guides the catheter through the blood vessels by watching the progress on a video monitor that displays x-rays (flouroscope) of the blood vessels and catheter.
- The radiologist directs the catheter to the artery supplying blood to the fibroid.
- Tiny beads of plastic gel, about the size of sand, are inserted through the catheter and left in the artery.
- These beads embolize or block the arteries, thereby killing the fibroid and causing it to scar over and shrink.
After the Procedure
- The main side effect is pelvic pain and swelling, which is treated with pain medication.
- About half of our patients remain overnight at Lynchburg General Hospital.
- Patients can expect moderate cramping for several days afterwards.
- A small number of patients will develop a fever that lasts for about a week.
- At the follow up apopintment two weeks following the procedure, most patients report a full recovery.
- Patients are scheduled for a follow-up ultrasound 2-3 months following their procedure to measure the size of the fibroid and uterus.
- As with any medical procedure, there are some risks involved with uterine artery embolization. The procedure is not generally performed in women with asymptomatic fibroids, suspicion of malignancy, or women with infection.
After the Procedure
Fibroids are the #1 reason for hysterectomy in the United States. According to the Society for Cardiovascular & Interventional Radiology, as many as 20-40% of all women over age 35 have uterine fibroids.
The symptoms of uterine fibroids include heavier prolonged menstrual periods often leading to anemia; pelvic pain, pressure or heaviness; pain in the backs of legs; pain or bleeding after sexual intercourse; bladder pressure; bowel pressure leading to constipation and bloating; and an enlarged abdomen.
Fibroids are diagnosed during internal gynecological examination and confirmed by pelvic ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan. The treatment type will depend on the size and location of the fibroid.
The effects of the procedure on fertility are not yet known; myomectomy (surgical removal of only the fibroids) may be an alternative to women who wish to have children.
Fibroids may also be referred to as myoma, leiomyoma, leiomyomata, or fibromyoma.
For more details, visit www.scvir.org.