What is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?

Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive treatment to shrink uterine fibroids, which are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. Medical professionals use the terms uterine fibroid embolization and uterine artery embolization interchangeably, but the latter is less specific and used for conditions other than fibroids. If you have fibroid tumors, you may discuss this treatment with your Coconut Creek, FL nurse practitioner. These growths arise from the muscular wall of the uterus and are unlikely to turn cancerous. However, they cause problematic symptoms like pain in the pelvic region, heavy menstrual bleeding, and pressure on the bladder or bowel.

In a uterine fibroid embolization procedure, your physician uses the guide of a fluoroscope and delivers small particles to the arteries supplying the fibroids through a catheter. These tiny particles stick to the walls of the arteries, blocking the blood supply to the fibroids. Consequently, the fibroids shrink, and symptoms ease or go away with time.

Why would I need uterine fibroid embolization?

The primary reason for uterine fibroid embolization is to treat uterine tumors that cause pain and other problems. Fibroid tumors are common among women of childbearing age; they are usually benign, meaning they are not cancerous. It is unlikely for fibroid tumors to become cancerous. The fibroids range from the size of a pea to large tumors that cause bulging and distort the shape of your uterus. If your fibroids are enormous, you may not benefit from uterine fibroid embolization. Instead, your physician may recommend surgery.

The risks of uterine artery embolization

Uterine artery embolization may cause some complications, like any other procedure. Potential risks of this treatment include:

  • An infection of the uterus
  • Hematoma – blood may collect under the skin at the puncture site in the groin
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Injury to the artery and uterus
  • Amenorrhea or loss of menstrual periods
  • Blood clots
  • Infertility

Some women may develop postembolization syndrome. Symptoms include low-grade fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pelvic pain, and cramping. These symptoms may last a few days or a week; pain and anti-inflammatory medications are usually enough to treat them. If you have nausea, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines to help with that.

Women older than 45 years may go through menopause after uterine artery embolization. You could still have a baby after treatment since the uterus is not removed during the procedure. However, if you plan to get pregnant, your doctor may advise against this treatment because it is not clear how uterine artery embolization might affect fertility and pregnancy. You may have other risks that uniquely apply to you, so you should discuss any concerns with your care provider before treatment.

How to prepare for uterine artery embolization

Like any other treatment, you should schedule a consultation with your healthcare provider to know the ins and outs of the procedure. During the consultation, your healthcare provider will explain the process to you, and you also get to ask any questions you may have regarding treatment. A physical exam, blood test, and other tests are necessary to ensure you are in good health. If you are eligible for treatment, your doctor sends you home with pre-procedure instructions.

If you have uterine fibroids, consult your South Florida Vascular Associates physician to know if uterine fibroid embolization is right for you.

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