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Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Minimally-Invasive Option For Treatment of Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids — also called myomas, leiomyomas and fibromas — are noncancerous growths found on the inside of the uterus, within the muscle wall of the uterus, or on the outer surface of the uterus. Their cause is not known, but they are quite common: approximately 80 percent of women have had uterine fibroids by the time they reach age 50. Uterine fibroids can alter the shape of the uterus, resulting in pregnancy problems in younger women, as well as cause:

  • Heavy, prolonged monthly periods
  • Anemia as a result of heavy fibroid bleeding
  • Low back pain
  • Blockage of the urinary tract or bowels

Innovative Treatment — Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

In the past, common options to treat fibroids included myomectomy and hysterectomy. A myomectomy is the surgical removal of fibroids from the uterus while preserving a woman's fertility. A hysterectomy removes the uterus in women who have no childbearing plans. While these remain viable surgical treatments for women with symptomatic uterine fibroids, Morton Plant Mease offers one of the most current, non-invasive options for women who are not planning to become pregnant: Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization.

Benefits of UFE

Uterine fibroid embolization is a non-surgical procedure performed by an interventional radiologist that blocks blood flow to fibroids in the uterus causing fibroids to shrink. UFE offers several advantages over surgical procedures:

  • General anesthesia is not required
  • No abdominal incision
  • All fibroids may be treated at once
  • No trauma to the uterus
  • Procedure lasts less than an hour
  • Few complications, reduced recovery time and shorter hospital stay allows patients to return to their lives more quickly

When is UFE a Treatment Option?

Uterine fibroid embolization is used to control heavy, prolonged menstrual bleeding when bleeding has not responded to other treatments, and for women who do not intend to become pregnant and/or want to avoid surgery.

Effectiveness of UFE

While the risk of complications after UFE is low, infection, which is the most serious complication, does exist, in addition to the possibility of the loss of menstrual periods, premature menopause and scar tissue formation. Fibroids may return after the procedure; however, approximately 85 percent of women treated with UFE reported improvement in their fibroid-related symptoms.

Additional Considerations

There are several additional considerations a woman with hard-to-treat uterine fibroids should discuss with her doctor before deciding on uterine fibroid embolization:

  • If a woman wants to become pregnant in the future, this procedure is not recommended.
  • If you are approaching menopause, consider that fibroids usually improve after menopause. This is due to the decline in hormone levels, which appear to influence the growth of fibroids.
  • UFE is generally comparable to the cost of a hysterectomy. Most insurance companies cover UFE as a treatment for symptomatic fibroids.
  • For women who are approaching menopause and are looking for short-term relief until fibroids shrink on their own, hormone therapy might also be an option. A gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogue puts the body into menopause for as long as it is taken. This estrogen decrease stops menstrual periods, halts the growth of uterine fibroids, and reduces their size.