Treatments For Uterine Fibroids

Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine Fibroid Tumors

Fibroids are benign (not cancerous) growths of muscle tissue on or inside the uterus. Uterine fibroid embolization shrinks a fibroid by cutting off its blood supply. The procedure is done through a catheter (long, thin, flexible tube) placed into a blood vessel through a small incision. The procedure is often done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Before the Procedure

To prepare for your embolization:

  • Do not eat or drink anything for 4 hours before the procedure.
  • Tell your doctor if you have allergies to any foods, medications, or contrast medium (x-ray die).
  • Tell your doctor about any medications, supplements, or herbs you're currently taking and ask whether you should stop taking them before the procedure.

During the Procedure

  • You'll change into a hospital gown and lie on an x-ray table. An IV (intravenous) line is started to give you fluids and medications. You may be given medication to help you relax.
  • The skin at the insertion spot is numbed with local anesthetic. Then, a needle with a thin guide wire is inserted into the femoral artery (a blood vessel near the groin). A catheter is placed over the guide wire into the blood vessel.
  • Contrast medium is injected through the catheter. This helps the arteries and catheter show up better on x-rays. The movement of the catheter can then be watched on a video monitor.
  • Using x-ray images as a guide, the radiologist moves the catheter through the blood vessel into the artery that supplies blood to the uterus.
  • Once the catheter is near the fibroid, the radiologist then performs the embolization by injecting tiny grains of plastic or spongy material into the artery. These grains flow to the smaller vessels that supply the fibroid, blocking blood from flowing. The procedure is repeated on the other side of the uterus.
  • The entire procedure takes around 1 to 2 hours.

After the Procedure

You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight. For up to a week, you will likely feel pain and cramping. You will be prescribed medications to help control this pain. Some vaginal spotting is common for a few days. You may feel tired and have nausea and a fever for a few days after the procedure. During your recovery, care for the insertion site as directed. You may be able to return to work within 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure.

Potential Risks and Complications

  • Infection or bruising around the catheter insertion site
  • Blood clot in a blood vessel
  • Problems due to contrast medium, including allergic reaction or kidney damage
  • Infertility or premature menopause
  • Injury to the uterus, requiring a hysterectomy

Treatments for Uterine Fibroids: