What to Expect During a UFE Procedure
UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization) or UAE (Uterine Artery Embolization) are slightly different terms for the same procedure. They are nonsurgical alternatives to hysterectomy or other surgical alternatives in the treatment of uterine fibroids.
Fibroids are benign tumors growing from the muscle wall of the uterus. Most often, they are asymptomatic but sometimes cause unpleasant symptoms: heavy menstrual bleeding, pain in the pelvic area, pressure on the bladder or intestines and others.
Currently, there is no ideal way to treat uterine fibroids; all options have their advantages and disadvantages. However, UFE is the safest and most effective method. It is a minimally invasive treatment option for uterine fibroids.
How Is UFE Procedure Performed?
Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive procedure, during which particles of a special medical solution are injected through a puncture of an artery on the thigh into the vessels that feed the uterine fibroids. These particles completely stop the blood flow of the tumor.
Almost 90% of women experience a cessation of all unpleasant symptoms and menstrual irregularities after the UFE 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.
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.
Why is The UFE Procedure not Performed in All Gynecological Clinics?
Unlike the equipment needed for fibroid surgery, equipment for the UFE procedure is very expensive, so not every clinic can afford it.
Also, today there are not many experienced radiologists, and doctors of other specialties cannot perform uterine fibroid embolization.
Atlanta Fibroid Center works under the highest standards of medical care, which requires great attention to every detail of the process: we use the most modern embolization preparations for the UFE procedure; we provide patients with post-procedure follow-up, including recommendations on when she can plan the conception of the baby.
If you have been diagnosed with fibroids and are experiencing symptoms, call Atlanta Fibroid Center at 770-214-4600 or make an appointment online.