Welcome to the comprehensive guide on uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). If you or someone you know is grappling with uterine fibroids, you’ve come to the right place. UFE is a minimally invasive procedure that offers an alternative to traditional surgical methods for treating uterine fibroids. This guide aims to equip you with essential knowledge and details about uterine fibroid embolization, its benefits and risks, and what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.
Throughout this guide, we will discuss the details of UFE, including its benefits and potential risks. We will talk about the eligibility criteria for the procedure, the pre-procedure preparations, and the step-by-step process of the embolization itself. Additionally, we will address common concerns, such as recovery and potential complications, and provide tips to promote a smooth healing process.
It is important to note that this uterine fibroid embolization guide is intended for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. It is intended to be used to educate and empower you to make informed decisions about your health and well-being.
An Overview Of Uterine Fibroids
Uterine fibroids, or leiomyomas, are non-cancerous growths that develop in the uterus. They can cause a variety of symptoms, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, frequent urination, and fertility issues. Fibroids are common among women of reproductive age and can significantly impact one’s quality of life.
The symptoms experienced due to uterine fibroids can vary depending on their location within the uterus. Fibroids can be found in different areas, such as the outer surface (subserosal), within the muscular wall (intramural), or inside the uterine cavity (submucosal). Each location can lead to distinct symptoms and complications.
Fibroids can vary in size and number, and an individual may have a combination of different fibroid types. The severity and combination of symptoms can vary from person to person. They are most frequently diagnosed by an OB-GYN during a routine pelvic exam and confirmed using an ultrasound.
Women who have fibroids that produce chronic symptoms are often referred for surgery based on these unreliable ultrasound images. MRI imaging is the best and most accurate method to evaluate your uterine fibroids and the specific impact they are having on your body.
Determining Candidacy For Uterine Fibroid Embolization
The first step in determining if you are a suitable candidate for UFE is to make an appointment with an interventional radiologist who has expertise in performing UFE, like Dr. John Lipman or Dr. Mitchell Ermentrout from the Atlanta Fibroid Center.
A pelvic MRI will be ordered to get a clear idea of how many fibroids are present and where they are located within your uterus. Using this information, along with medical history, severity of symptoms, overall health status, etc., the doctor assesses each patient on a case-by-case basis.
Most women who have been advised that they need a hysterectomy are candidates for UFE, and most women who have been referred for myomectomy would also be viable candidates for uterine fibroid embolization. To find out if you would benefit from the UFE procedure, take our one-minute online quiz!
How Would I Prepare For A UFE Procedure?
There is not much preparation required before a UFE procedure, but the few steps that are involved are very important. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you to and from your procedure because you will not be able to drive yourself home. There are only a few things you need to do to get ready for your procedure.
- Drink plenty of water the day before your surgery to ensure that you are properly hydrated.
- After midnight on the night before the surgery, no food or liquids should be consumed. (Blood pressure medication, however, can be taken with a few sips of water in the morning.)
- You may wish to fill your prescriptions the day before your procedure and have them ready when you arrive home from your UFE procedure.
- It is helpful to have a few easy-to-heat meals prepared in advance so that the first few days after your procedure you can take it easy and rest.
- The night before, stock your bedside table with essentials like tissues, a heating pad, a thermometer, a book, water, a remote control, an iPad, etc. It is also helpful to have a fresh change of comfortable lounging clothes ready to go, as well as the phone numbers of your doctors and pharmacies, just in case they are needed.
Step By Step Details About The Uterine Fibroid Embolization Procedure
Following are the basic steps of the UFE procedure:
- Step 1 – Anesthesia
- UFE is usually performed under local anesthesia with conscious sedation. Most patients fall asleep during this type of sedation and will not feel any pain during this 35- to 40-minute procedure. This type of sedation offers fewer side effects and less complication risk than general anesthesia.
- Step 2 – Accessing the femoral artery
- The interventional radiologist will make a small puncture, usually in the upper thigh, to access the femoral artery. This artery will be used to guide the catheter to the uterine arteries.
- Step 3 – Catheterization
- A very thin, flexible catheter is inserted through the incision and threaded through the arterial system until it reaches the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroids.
- Step 4 – Embolization
- Once the catheter is in position, small particles are injected through the catheter into the uterine arteries. These particles block the blood flow to the fibroids, killing the fibroids and leading to their shrinkage. After the procedure, the doctor will remove the catheter and then proceed to close the puncture site, leaving behind only a small band aid.
- Step 5 – Post-procedure monitoring
- After the embolization, you will be closely monitored for a few hours to ensure your stability and manage any discomfort or pain. Your doctor may prescribe pain medications or suggest other supportive measures as needed.
- Step 6 – Recovery and follow-up
- Patients are discharged on the same day and given instructions on how to manage any post-procedure symptoms, including pain, cramping, and discharge. Follow-up appointments will be scheduled to monitor your progress, assess fibroid shrinkage, and address any concerns.
Recovering At Home After UFE
Most patients are discharged with four prescriptions that they will use over the next several days to a week. These medications include:
- Prescription-strength Ibuprofen that should be taken for the first five days to mitigate swelling;
- Pain medication (Oxycodone or Percocet) that may be necessary for some patients for the first few days, taken as needed;
- A stool softener that should be taken for 5 days according to your doctor’s instructions to help alleviate the natural slowdown of the bowels caused by sedation and/or the use of prescription pain medication;
- An anti-nausea medication to be taken as needed.
Patients should not use aspirin or similar over-the-counter medications during the first five days after the UFE procedure.
While the fibroids are undergoing the process of degeneration, patients may experience discomfort that may persist for several hours, a few days, or up to a week or more. Most patients take a few days off for their recovery after UFE to rest and recover, as it is common to experience crampy pain similar to heavy menstrual cramps, a slight fever, weakness, and vaginal spotting after the procedure.
Activity Restrictions After Uterine Fibroid Embolization
After undergoing uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), it’s important to follow certain activity restrictions to ensure a smooth recovery and optimize the effectiveness of the procedure. While the specific recommendations may vary depending on your individual case and the guidance provided by your doctor, here are some common activity restrictions typically advised after UFE:
- You may shower, but you must refrain from taking baths for two weeks;
- You cannot use a hot tub, swimming pool, or sauna for two weeks;
- Use sanitary pads for your first menstrual cycle following UFE, and do not use tampons;
- Abstain from sexual intercourse for 2 weeks;
- Avoid heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, and strenuous exercise for 2 weeks;
- Plan on low-key activities for 14 days and avoid air travel and long car trips.
What Is Going On With My Fibroids After The Uterine Fibroid Embolization Procedure?
UFE cuts off the blood supply that the fibroids need to stay alive, so immediately after UFE, they begin to shrink and die. You may experience pain or discomfort during this period of time, depending on how large or numerous your fibroids are. The pain medications provided by your doctor will help eliminate or greatly reduce your discomfort during this time.
Typically, three months after the procedure, the fibroids have shrunk by at least 30%, and patients notice a significant difference in the severity of their symptoms. After about six months, the fibroids are between 50% and 70% smaller than they were before UFE, and what is left is soft, pliable, and no longer causing symptoms. Around 90% of the women who undergo UFE no longer experience the painful, life-interrupting symptoms of fibroids, and 99% of these women never need any other form of treatment because these fibroids are gone forever.
How Long Do I Have To Wait After UFE If I Want To Become Pregnant?
As long as their doctor does not see any other potential issues, it is recommended that women wait between three and six monthly cycles after having UFE to try to become pregnant.
What Can I Do To Help My Body Heal Faster After UFE?
Your body is miraculous in that it was designed to heal itself, but there are definitely things you can do to ensure that your recovery is as fast as possible. The things you can do that will help you recover from UFE faster include:
- Following all of your post-procedure instructions from your doctor, including taking all your medications according to the schedule provided;
- Eating a nutrient-rich diet of whole foods;
- Making sure you stay adequately hydrated;
- Getting enough sleep and allowing yourself enough downtime to recover;
- Managing your stress levels;
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking.
What Risks Are Associated With UFE?
UFE is considered a significantly lower-risk option than surgery for treating uterine fibroids, but like any medical procedure, there are potential, although rare, risks involved, including infection, injury to adjacent tissues, an allergic reaction to the contrast dyes or sedative medication, or premature menopause.
What Should I Look For When Choosing A Qualified UFE Doctor?
When choosing a qualified doctor for uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), it’s important to consider several factors to ensure you receive optimal care and treatment. Here are some key aspects to look for when selecting a UFE doctor:
- UFE is a highly specialized medical procedure performed by a board-certified interventional radiologist. Seek a doctor who specializes in fibroid management and has extensive experience performing UFE procedures. A doctor with expertise in UFE will have a deeper understanding of the procedure and will be able to perform it with precision and avoid potential complications.
- Research the doctor’s educational background, training, and qualifications. Check if they have received formal training in UFE, their credentials, affiliations with reputable medical institutions, and involvement in professional societies or associations.
- Inquire about the doctor’s experience performing UFE. Ask how many procedures they have performed and their success rates. A doctor with ample experience and a high success rate can instill confidence in the effectiveness and safety of the procedure.
- Look for a doctor who values patient-centered care and takes the time to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and address any doubts or fears you may have. A good doctor-patient relationship is vital for effective communication and collaboration throughout your UFE journey.
- Consider the quality of the healthcare facility and the team involved in your care. Ensure that the facility is well-equipped with advanced medical technology and adheres to appropriate safety protocols.
- Seek feedback from previous patients or read online reviews to gauge the doctor’s reputation and patient satisfaction. Positive reviews and testimonials can provide insights into the doctor’s expertise, bedside manner, and overall quality of care.
- Consider the doctor’s ability to provide comprehensive care throughout your UFE journey. This includes pre-procedure evaluations, a thorough explanation of the procedure and potential risks, post-procedure follow-up, and long-term management of fibroids if necessary.
These factors are general guidelines, and your personal preferences and needs should also be taken into account. Trust your instincts, do thorough research, and consider seeking second opinions before making a final decision.
Remember, choosing a qualified and experienced UFE doctor is a crucial step towards a successful treatment outcome and a positive overall experience.
Where Can I Find An Expert In UFE Near Me?
Uterine fibroid embolization is an innovative procedure that has gained popularity in recent years. Many new clinics are popping up and claiming to be experts in the UFE procedure, but few have the expertise or knowledge of interventional radiologist Dr. John Lipman of the Atlanta Fibroid Center.
One look at Dr. Lipman’s credentials will let you know his extensive background and expertise in not only performing UFE but also pioneering the procedure from its inception. He is both an expert and a recognized leader in the fields of interventional radiology and uterine fibroid embolization and has helped thousands of women from all over the world become free from fibroid symptoms.
Dr. Ermentrout at the Atlanta Fibroid Center is also a national leader in the field of interventional radiology, having served as clinical director of IR at Emory University Hospital and led the IR residency and fellowship program at Emory prior to joining Dr. Lipman at the Atlanta Fibroid Center. He has also performed thousands of embolization procedures and is an expert in fibroid care and performing UFE.
If you believe you may benefit from UFE or have questions regarding your specific condition, contact the Atlanta Fibroid Center today for some answers. Fibroid surgery should be a last resort, and UFE may be an option for you! Contact us today for your appointment for a fibroid-free future.