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Benefits of UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization)

Using uterine artery embolization (UAE) to treat fibroids is relatively new, but the technique has been used for over 20 years to treat uterine hemorrhage after childbirth. Years of experience has shown that the technique itself is safe and effective.

Primary benefits of choosing UFE to treat your uterine fibroids are:

  • No hysterectomy is needed. Hysterectomy is considered major surgery, so althought it is performed routinely and frequently, there is always the possibility of risks and complications with any major surgery. In addition, there are side effects related to losing your uterus, including hormonal imbalance, reduction of sexual desire and response, and early menopause.
  • Short hospital stay. With UFE, you only need to stay in the hospital overnight, instead of the two or three days that are required when you have a hysterectomy or myomectomy.
  • Relief of symptoms. Over the past ten years that UFE has been performed, it has been found that the success rate for symptom relief is between 85% to 90%. In the remaining 10% - 15%, more drastic treatment may be necessary, but wouldn't you like to start with a minor procedure that is likely to work, than jump into major surgery?
  • No regrowth. Studies tracking women who have had UFE performed during the past 10 years have found that none of the embolized fibroids regrew.
  • Quick recovery. Most women are comfortable returning to work after an average of 10 days of recovery.

Risks of UFE

Any medical procedure carries with it a certain amount of risk. With UFE, the risk of complication has been found to be very small. Potential complications include:

  • Blood vessel damage - The catheter travels through the blood vessels of the body, so theoretically damage could occur to the vessel during the catheter's passage. However, the catheter is very flexible and soft, and radiologists specialize in easing the catheter through the vessel, so in the hands of an experienced radiologist, the chance of any damage to blood vessel is less than 1%.
  • Early menopause - Generally, normal menstrual cycles return shortly after UFE. However, 1% and 5% of all women may experience early-onset menopause. This seems to be more common in women who are over 45 when the procedure is performed.
  • X-ray exposure - X-rays are used by the intervetional radiologist to view the catheter as it proceeds through the vessels, so x-ray exposure is unavoidable. The total amount of exposure is well below what would be considered to be a concern for the patient or any future children.
  • Allergic reaction - Some women are allergic to X-ray contrast material. This can cause reactions ranging from itching and rash to more severe reactions that can affect breathing or blood pressure. UFE is performed in a hospital with a team of nurses and doctors available to detect and treat any difficulty as soon it occurs. If you know you are allergic to X-ray contrast material, be sure to tell your doctor before you have UFE.
  • D&C procedure - In a small number of women who have fibroids that project into the uterus itself, the fibroid tissue may die and require passage. In most cases, the tissue passes harmlessly like menstrual blood, but occasionally it may be necessary to perform a dilation and cutterage (D&C) to ensure that the uterine lining is clear and healthy.


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