Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) As An Alternative to Hysterectomy

Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a non-surgical method of uterine fibroid treatment.

UFE has many advantages, but the main one is that UFE allows to keep the patient’s uterus fully functional without risks and complications of a fibroid surgery.


The method is based on blocking the blood flow to all fibroids, which leads to their independent extinction.

⇒ Related: Frequently Asked Questions about Fibroids and UFE / UAE

This minimally invasive procedure reduces the risks of complications and recurrence to almost zero, allowing a woman to return to a normal life in a short time.

Let’s take a closer look at how the UFE works.

What to Expect During the Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

Pre-Procedure

You are encouraged to be well hydrated (drink lots of fluids) the day before the procedure. Nothing is to be taken by mouth after midnight the night before the procedure. One exception to this is if you take blood pressure medicine in the morning, this can be taken with small sips of water. Prepare your bedside table the night before (tissues, heating pad, thermometer, loose-fitting nightgown, important phone numbers of doctors, pharmacy). You will need someone to drive you home mid to late afternoon on the day of the procedure.

During the Procedure

You will feel no pain during this 30-45 minute procedure, and you will sleep comfortably during this time. Intravenous sedation (fentanyl and versed) is used. After the procedure patients may experience a crampy pain like heavy menstrual cramps. This can last several hours and is significantly improved by the following morning. Patients are discharged home on the day of the procedure. Patients are given a prescription for the following four medications upon discharge:

  • 1. Ibuprofen
  • 2. Oxycodone for pain, which is usually taken during the first 48 hours, and only when needed
  • 3. Docusate Sodium-stool softener to be taken 2X/day for 5 days
  • 4. Promethazine suppository for nausea as needed.

The recovery period is usually 3-4 days, although I suggest patients take 1 week off from work if possible. The only restrictions after the procedure are:

  • No bathing for 2 weeks (you can shower).
  • No tampons for one cycle (use pads then can switch back).
  • No intercourse for 2 weeks.
  • No heavy lifting or exercise for 2 weeks.
  • Airline and long car travel discouraged for 2 weeks.

Post-Procedure

If you are tolerating taking liquids by mouth, exhibit no bleeding from the point of entry in the groin, and the oral pain medicine is adequate in controlling the discomfort, you can go home. You will be discharged on an anti-inflammatory (like motrin) which you need to take for 5 days and a pain pill which is taken only as needed. The oxycodone (narcotic for pain) tends to cause constipation, so use a laxative if this occurs. The discomfort of constipation can add to the expected post-procedural discomfort. You can resume your normal light activities as you feel able which should be within 48-72 hours after the procedure. Don’t overdo it, and use pain/discomfort as your guide. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of fluids. Boxer shorts are recommended over briefs (less irritating). Heating pads can be helpful for the discomfort. No aspirin or aspirin-like products should be used during the 5 days on the prescribed medications. Should you have any questions, day or night there is always a physician (Interventional Radiologist) on call to help you.

An Alternative to Hysterectomy

Today, uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is the best alternative to hysterectomy. It saves the patient’s uterus and completely eliminates many dangerous risks of a surgery.

Hysterectomy has a 30% complication rate while in the hospital (typically, infection or fever), and an additional risk of more serious complications such as hemorrhage (requiring transfusion), or injury to the bladder, ureter or bowel. One-third of patients who underwent hysterectomy, undergo another related surgery within 2 years (examples: adhesions, bowel obstructions). Surgically removing an enlarged fibroid uterus weakens the pelvic floor muscles, which often lead to urinary leaking or incontinence. Other risks include:

  • 1. Injury to adjacent organs: most commonly injured are the bladder, ureter, and bowel
  • 2. Post-operative bleeding requiring blood transfusion 
  • 3. Infections or wound issues
  • 4. Long-term side effects: many women suffer side effects long after their hysterectomies. Hysterectomy can affect women psychologically (like a man being castrated), sexually (loss of libido or orgasm), can cause increased bone loss, weight gain, and can elevate cardiovascular risks (leading to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke).

Your doctor may recommend uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) as an alternative to hysterectomy, which is essentially fibroid treatment without surgery.


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Atlanta Fibroid Center
of Atlanta Interventional Institute
John C. Lipman, MD, FSIR
3670 Highlands Parkway SE
Smyrna, GA 30082

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