Uterine Fibroid Embolization

HOW SHOULD I PREPARE FOR THE PROCEDURE?

You will receive instructions from staff at the interventional radiologist's office at least one day before the procedure. Make sure to let the staff know if you have any allergies to medications or to contrast material which may be used during this procedure. If you are on any blood thinners such as aspirin, Coumadin, Lovenox, Heparin, or Plavix please let the staff know. Staff will advise you if changes in your regular medication schedule are necessary. Make sure someone will be available to drive you home afterwards.

HOW DOES THE PROCEDURE WORK?

Uterine Fibroid Embolization blocks blood flow to the fibroids by starving them of the blood they need to grow. When deprived of blood, the tumor masses die, and then develop into scar tissue and shrink in size. The symptoms they previously caused become less bothersome or disappear. Multiple fibroids may be treated at the same session, and even very large ones can be effectively treated by this procedure.

HOW IS THE PROCEDURE PERFORMED?

Uterine fibroid embolization is carried out in an interventional radiology suite. Your heart rate, blood pressure, electrocardiogram, breathing and blood oxygen levels will be monitored. The procedure typically takes 60 to 90 minutes.

After injecting a sedative to make you relaxed and a local anesthetic to numb the skin at the groin, the interventional radiologist will make a small nick in the skin, and thread the catheter (small tube) into the artery. Using x-ray guidance and contrast material to map the blood vessels, the catheter is threaded into the uterine arteries and particles are injected until blood flow in the uterine arteries is blocked.

WHAT WILL I EXPERIENCE DURING THE PROCEDURE?

Most patients who have uterine fibroid embolization remain overnight in the hospital for pain control and observation. Patients typically experience pelvic cramps for several days after the procedure, and possibly mild nausea and low-grade fever as well. The cramps are most sever during the first 24 hours after the procedure and improve quickly. While in the hospital, your pain will be controlled through your IV and oral pain medication will be provided when you are discharged home. Most patients will recover from the effects of the procedure within one to two weeks and will be able to return to their normal activities.

Usually it takes two to three months for the fibroids to shrink enough so that related symptoms such as pain and pressure improve. It is common for heavy bleeding to improve during the first menstrual cycle following the procedure. Most women are able to return to work one to two weeks following the procedure.