What Are Uterine Fibroid Embolization Risks?

There are many rumors about “terrible” uterine fibroid embolization risks; however, many years of research by experienced doctors prove that UFE is the safest way to treat uterine fibroids.

Uterine fibroids are diagnosed in every third woman over 35 years old. Every year, the condition “becomes younger” affecting more and more patients of childbearing age. Over the years, doctors were radically solving the problem by sending women with fibroids under the surgical scalpel. Hysterectomy is still a common solution for uterine fibroids. But the removal of the uterus is not just a painful procedure; the surgery poses serious health risks in general. Besides, a woman can never get pregnant after a hysterectomy.

Today’s medicine offers less traumatic and more effective methods of treating the tumor. One of them is uterine fibroid embolization. This minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure reduces the risks of complications and relapse to almost zero allowing a woman to get her life back in a short time.

Uterine Fibroid Embolization Risks: Myths And Reality

Today, uterine fibroid embolization is the safest procedure for treating uterine fibroids, the risk of any complication is several times lower than after a surgical treatment and does not exceed 1%.

Unfortunately, some gynecologists who can offer only surgery often “scare” patients with false information about uterine fibroid embolization risks. Why is this happening?

Although UFE is an excellent alternative to surgery in almost all cases, this procedure is performed by an experienced Interventional Radiologist, not a Gynecologist. Consequently, if the clinic where you consulted for uterine fibroids is not able to offer UFE, you are unlikely to receive all the latest and most accurate information about this treatment method. Most likely, you will be offered a treatment option based on the limited [in this case] capabilities of the gynecological clinic, which does not include UFE.

Uterine fibroid embolization has been successfully performed throughout the world for over 20 years and has been approved by all medical organizations as a safe and effective method of treating patients with fibroids.

If a Radiologist’s experience is sufficient, the only “complication” is a small lump in the puncture site. This is a small consequence that usually does not require additional treatment and disappears within 1-2 weeks.

Other risks of UFE are extremely rare and they are many times less harmless than the risks of any surgery:

1. Menopause. Approximately 2% of patients have menopause after UFE. It should be noted that the vast majority of these women are over 45 years old. A much smaller percentage of women enter menopause after UFE between the ages of 40 and 45. In our experience, no one under 40 years of age has experienced menopause after UFE treatment.

2. Fibroid slough: Roughly ~1 in 500 patients will slough fibroid tissue with menses after UFE. The tissue is from a fibroid that is near the lining and fell apart after the UFE. This is not concerning, and it is important to tell patients about this so that they are not alarmed if they see this after UFE. On very rare occasions (~1 in 1,000 patients), the tissue is in the cavity but a woman cannot pass it.

Symptoms of sudden, sharp pain, fever, and a smelly discharge alert women of this issue, and the Interventional Radiologist should be immediately notified. The patient is placed on antibiotics and watched closely for ~24 hours. If she passes the tissue, no further steps are taken. If she cannot pass it, an elective outpatient procedure with her gynecologist may be necessary.

3. Allergy to contrast: very rarely, patients are allergic to the X-ray contrast. In the rare event that a reaction occurs, patients are given medicine to reverse and stop it.

4. Undetected cancer: Rarely, cancer can be present in the uterus and is not detected by any test or imaging. (Approximately 1 in 2,000 cases).

The Risk of Recurrence of Fibroids

After UFE there is an extremely low probability of uterine fibroid recurrence. In those cases when the tumor is diagnosed again, it is due to the appearance of new fibroids. But the re-occurrence is an exception rather than a rule.

Whereas after a myomectomy there is a very high probability of a relapse. This is due to the fact that many tumors are located in a place inaccessible for surgical intervention, so the surgeon cannot remove all fibroids, which causes the formation and growth of new fibroids in near future.

Often, patients require the second or even third procedure but even then complete elimination of fibroids cannot be guaranteed.

Advantages and benefits of UFE compared to surgery are:

  • No hospital stay
  • Safer
  • Less invasive
  • Short recovery
  • No general anesthesia
  • No blood loss
  • The ability to bear children afterward. And this is the main advantage of UFE. Obviously, after a hysterectomy, there is no question of childbearing, but even after myomectomy infertility often occurs due to the formation of adhesions in the uterus and around it.

To fully treat uterine fibroids, you don’t need to go under the scalpel. You can get rid of fibroids without risk, safely, quickly, and efficiently with uterine fibroid embolization.

If you’re suffering from fibroids and have been told you need surgery, get a second opinion from the Atlanta Fibroid Center. We’re world-renowned experts in the non-surgical treatment of uterine fibroids. Contact us at (770) 953-2600 or make an appointment online to learn more about UFE.