UFE vs UAE: How Can The Same Procedure Have Two Different Names?

You may have heard about uterine fibroids and you also may be aware of a condition called adenomyosis but did you know that they can both be treated with the same non-surgical procedure?

A technique known as embolization has been around for over 50 years and was first used in 1968 to stop blood flow to an area in the brain and block an aneurysm. In 1979 artery embolization was first used to treat postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH) and is still used today. In fact, legendary golfer Phil Mickelson’s wife’s life was saved with embolization after the birth of one of their children. PPH occurs in approximately 1 out of every 1,000 deliveries and can be fatal if not treated immediately and successfully.

The research that discovered the embolization treatment for PPH led to the current procedure we know of today as uterine artery embolization which is used to treat fibroids and adenomyosis without surgery.

What Is Embolization?

Embolization is a procedure where the flow of blood supplying an area in the body is interrupted. This can be to stop a bleeding vessel in a trauma situation or in the case of fibroids and adenomyosis, limit the flow to cause fibroids or adenomyosis to die off.

There are many different agents used in embolization, e.g. liquids, temporary particles, permanent particles, coils, and plugs, the specific one utilized depends on the situation that it is used for. The most common agents used for embolization for women with fibroids and adenomyosis are permanent particles, typically ranging from 250-750 microns in size.

What Is The Difference Between UFE and UAE?

The embolization procedures known as uterine fibroid embolization and uterine artery embolization are virtually the same with only small variations in technique.

The particles that are used to treat uterine fibroids are injected into the uterine artery so perhaps referring to this procedure as uterine artery embolization for fibroids would be the most accurate.

Another difference between UAE and UFE when used to treat uterine fibroids vs adenomyosis is the size of the particles that are injected. The clinical success of UAE for Adenomyosis is improved with the use of smaller embolic agents than when using the UAE procedure for fibroids.

How Does Uterine Fibroid Artery Embolization Work To Treat Fibroid Symptoms?

Uterine fibroids cause symptoms due to their size and/or location in or on the uterus. Fibroids can cause heavy bleeding that can lead to anemia, pain & pressure, back or leg pain, frequent urination, pain during sex, and all kinds of unpleasant symptoms that can disrupt or reduce a woman’s quality of life.

Historically, the only treatments offered for uterine fibroids were surgical (hysterectomy and myomectomy) both of which are associated with a host of unpleasant short and long-term side effects.

Uterine fibroid embolization or uterine artery embolization is 90% effective in treating the symptoms caused by fibroids.

An Interventional Radiologist inserts a catheter (the size of a piece of spaghetti) through a tiny nick in the groin. This catheter is steered under x-ray guidance into the uterine arteries one at a time. Tiny particles (like grains of sand) are injected into the uterine arteries and are specifically sized for the fibroid vessels. Without the necessary blood supply, the fibroids shrink and die. As this process occurs, the woman’s symptoms begin to fade away.

The same uterine artery embolization technique is used to treat adenomyosis but the embolic agents that are injected are slightly smaller, typically 250-500 microns versus 355-710 microns for fibroids. Because there is essentially no difference between UAE and UFE, the procedures take the same amount of time and offer the same short recovery time of 5-7 days. Patients can go home the same day as the procedure and only have a bandaid as evidence that they have had the procedure.

If you are suffering from uterine fibroids and would like to learn more about uterine artery or fibroid embolization, please contact The Atlanta Fibroid Center today to set up a consultation. At Atlanta Fibroid Center, we believe you deserve to live your life free of the miserable symptoms that are caused by fibroids and adenomyosis. We can help you reclaim your quality of life.

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