Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)
Non-surgical relief for fibroid tumors
Uterine fibroids are common non-cancerous growths that develop in the muscular wall of the uterus. They can range in size from very tiny (a quarter of an inch) to larger than a cantaloupe. Occasionally, they can cause the uterus to grow to the size of a five-month pregnancy. In most cases, there is more than one fibroid in the uterus. While fibroids do not always cause symptoms, their size and location can lead to problems for some women, including pain and heavy bleeding.
Twenty to 40 percent of women age 35 and older have uterine fibroids of a significant size. African-American women are at a higher risk for fibroids: as many as 50 percent have fibroids of a significant size. Uterine fibroids are the most frequent indication for hysterectomy in premenopausal women and, therefore, are a major public health issue. Of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed annually in the United States, one-third are due to fibroids.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) relieves symptoms while allowing a patient to avoid surgery. During a UFE procedure, interventional radiologists use an X-ray camera called a fluoroscope to guide the delivery of tiny particles to the uterus and fibroids. The small particles are injected through a thin, flexible catheter. These particles then block the arteries that provide blood flow to the tumors, causing the fibroids to shrink. Nearly 90 percent of women with fibroids experience dramatic relief of their symptoms.
Because the effect of uterine fibroid embolization on fertility is not fully understood, UFE is typically offered to women who no longer wish to become pregnant or who want or need to avoid having a hysterectomy, which is the surgical removal of the uterus. Benefits of UFE include no surgical incision, little or no blood loss, significantly less pain, a faster recovery and a quicker return to work and normal activities.