When it comes to effectively treating uterine fibroids, there can be a lot of options to consider. In previous years, a hysterectomy was the standard surgery used to treat fibroids, since removing the uterus entirely was the only way to guarantee relief from symptoms. Thankfully, recent advancements in medical technology have allowed for more minimally invasive methods to be made available, including uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE.
Uterine fibroid embolization may also be referred to as uterine artery embolization (UAE).
What Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization?
At Pittsburgh Fibroids, our interventional radiologists are highly skilled in performing intravenous procedures such as UFE. Rather than make a surgical incision to the uterus, or even anywhere in the pelvis, our specialists are able to treat the patient’s fibroid(s) by threading a thin tube through a small cut in the groin or wrist. The tube, also called a catheter, is carefully maneuvered through the arteries until it reaches the target area.
Once in place, an embolic fluid is injected through the catheter and into the targeted arteries. This fluid then works to block blood flow within the artery, which effectively cuts off the blood supply to the uterine fibroid being treated. This may be applied to as many fibroids as needed, and the blood then recirculates through other arteries in the pelvis.
What Are the Benefits of UFE?
Uterine fibroid embolization is typically performed on an outpatient basis, meaning that women treated for fibroids at Pittsburgh Fibroids may return home following their procedure. Over the next several weeks the patient’s fibroids should gradually reduce in size as they continue to not receive the blood necessary for further development and growth.
Compared to more traditional approaches to treating fibroids, such as a hysterectomy, UFE is much less invasive. Avoidance of making a large incision and putting a patient fully under anesthesia during their treatment lowers both the risk of potential complications and the amount of recommended recovery time for the patient. A majority of patients who receive uterine fibroid treatment using UFE are able to return to regular daily activities in one to two days.
Can I Become Pregnant After UFE?
Although UFE has not been definitively proven to not impact a woman’s fertility, it protects her potential to have a child in the future, which is certainly not possible following the surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).
What Are the Risks of UFE?
Uterine fibroid embolization is very safe, and is associated with significantly lower rates of complications following treatment compared to other common fibroid removal procedures. The most common side effects following UFE are:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Skipping the first 1 or 2 menstrual cycles after UFE treatment
- Early menopause (usually seen in patients 45+ years in age)
- Prolonged vaginal discharge
Much more rare potential outcomes from UFE include fibroid expulsion, non-target embolization, and infection. Be sure to contact Pittsburgh Fibroids immediately if you experience any abnormal symptoms following your UFE procedure, as they may be signs of a rare complication. Such symptoms include unexplained bleeding, bruising, and severe pain.
Is UFE Covered By Insurance?
Most major insurance carriers will cover the cost of uterine fibroid embolization, as it is a well-proven treatment for women suffering from fibroids. These costs may vary depending upon each person’s unique coverage plan, which is why we recommend that you contact your insurance agent before confirming your UFE procedure.
At Pittsburgh Fibroids, our team is dedicated to helping patients achieve effective and affordable treatment. We also participate in a variety of other payment plan programs to help patients without comprehensive insurance coverage to pay for their UFE procedure. Please call our office in Pittsburgh for further assistance.
Can All Fibroids Be Treated Using UFE?
Each case is a bit different, and uterine fibroid embolization may not be the ideal solution for every single patient. This decision should be made after educating yourself of all the options available, and which one are most likely to help you attain your goals following treatment.
Schedule a Consultation in Pittsburgh
To discuss additional questions and concerns regarding UFE, please contact Pittsburgh Fibroids to set up an appointment with one of our experienced providers. New patients may either call our office at (724) 503-6766, or simply submit a request online using our secure form.