UFE: An Alternative to Surgery

UFE: An Alternative to Surgery 645d5278d33ea.png

UFE: An Alternative to Surgery

Uterine Fibroid Embolization is a very effective, minimally-invasive procedure to remove uterine fibroids. It can also be an alternative to a major surgery such as a hysterectomy or a myomectomy, and has a much shorter recovery time. 

Unlike major surgery to remove fibroids which can require a few nights in the hospital and several weeks or even months to fully recover- UFE is an outpatient procedure, with a much shorter recovery time.

During UFE, a tiny catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in the leg or wrist, which is then guided to the blood vessels that feed the fibroids. Once it reaches that point, small particles are injected into the vessel to block the artery and cut off the blood flow to the fibroids.  Then, following the procedure, the patient will return to their home, where over the next few weeks and months, the fibroids will gradually shrink.

One of the many benefits of Uterine Fibroid Embolization is that it targets all fibroids in the uterus. This makes it an excellent treatment option for individuals with only a few fibroids as well as those who have many fibroids, regardless of fibroid size.

In fact, uterine fibroid embolization is so effective that most individuals who undergo the procedure have a dramatic improvement in their symptoms that is experienced when they return to their normal activities a mere 8 to 10 days after the treatment.

So what does it feel like? Does it hurt?

Good question, and we’ll do our best to answer that.

The UFE procedure itself is not painful, however light sedation medications will be administered through an IV in order to prevent any discomfort.  Some women report experiencing a feeling in their pelvis similar to menstrual cramping or heaviness. This is completely normal and is due to the decreased blood supply to the uterus.

Following the procedure, it is also normal to experience low energy, intermittent nausea, and possibly fever- as a result of the dying fibroid tissue.

These symptoms typically last a few days at most, and gradually decrease in severity. Most women report that by the fourth or fifth day following the procedure, they feel back to normal, while some might have a few more days of cramping. Fortunately, most of this discomfort can be easily ameliorated with the help of over-the-counter pain medication.

Since UFE is an outpatient procedure, it’s important to have an area in your home where you can relax and heal after.

You may wish to set up your bed with extra pillows, and your favorite blanket, and if there’s a tv in your relaxation location, having the remote control nearby can be helpful as well.

While resting at home, some cramping can be expected in the lower abdominal region for about 24 hours but will subside quickly. However, most physicians do recommend that patients plan to stay home or at least limit their activities for at least one week following uterine fibroid embolization.

Other restrictions that your doctor may ask you to follow are:

– No bathing for 2 weeks. Shower as normal.

– No tampons for at least one full cycle.

– Abstain from sex for 2 weeks.

– No heavy lifting until your strength fully returns.

– Flights and travel are not recommended for at least 2 weeks.

– Refrain from taking aspirin for at least the first week.

Though recovery times may vary, most patients can return to all normal activities after 2 weeks. Even better, they can expect to experience significant improvements in their pre-op fibroid symptoms, over the course of one to three months. This means no more heavy periods, pelvic pain and pressure, urinary incontinence, or pain during sexual intercourse.

In our next article, we will take a look at the results of the embolization, and the experience and time it usually takes for the fibroids to shrink.

In the meantime, if you are considering Uterine Fibroid Embolization treatment for uterine fibroids, or have any questions about the UFE procedure, please call us at 301-622-5360 and request an appointment at MidAtlantic Vascular and Interventional today!

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