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Uterine Fibroid Embolisation: What to Expect?

Fibroids are non-cancerous or benign growths in the uterus. These growths occur commonly in fertile women and will mostly shrink after menopause. Most of the fibroids don’t create any symptoms and go unnoticed. However, in some females, fibroids can create symptoms based on their location and size. This includes pelvic pain, a progressive urge to pass urine, increase period pain, infertility, and/or heavy bleeding. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention. Usually, your doctor will recommend you to an Interventional Radiologist.

Uterine Fibroid Embolisation (UFE)

When the symptoms of fibroids are noticeable and include severe pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, and/or pressure on the bladder or bowel, you may be required to undergo an Interventional Radiology procedure known as uterine fibroid embolisation (UFE). The procedure involves the use of specialised X-ray equipment known as fluoroscopy. It is used to deliver embolic agents into the fibroids and uterus.

The agents work by blocking the arteries supplying blood to the benign growth, causing them to shrink. According to studies, 9 in 10 women undergoing UFE have a complete resolution or significant improvement in their fibroid-based symptoms. Also referred to as uterine artery embolisation (UAE), this is a non-surgical procedure.

Preparing for Uterine Fibroid Embolisation

Uterine Fibroid Embolisation is a medical procedure and is performed by an Interventional Radiologist in a hospital or day care facility. You should expect the following as part of the preparation process:

  • You will be admitted to an in-patient facility

  • A drip/needle will be inserted at the back of your hand or into your arm

  • You may be given a pre-med meant to overcome anxiety or pain by making you feel drowsy

  • You will be required to take light food before the procedure

  • The Interventional Radiologist may require some blood tests to check for any blood or kidney-related problems

Your menstrual cycle is of no consequence when UFE is performed. The duration of the hospital stay can vary based on your health, condition, and your practitioner. Usually, the procedure requires a patient to stay for 1 to 3 days.

How Long Does UFE Take?

The Interventional Radiology procedure usually takes 40 minutes to complete. However, this duration can be affected by the following factors:

  • The number of arteries that need to be blocked

  • Structure of the fibroid(s)

  • Size of the fibroid(s)

  • Structure of the blood vessels

Since you will be provided with a pre-med, you will not notice how fast time flies away.

Potential After Effects of UFE

Since UFE is a medical procedure, you can expect some immediate after-effects. The following after-effects may or may not be felt by all patients:

  • Some level of pelvic pain or cramps after the procedure

  • Nausea or vomiting after the procedure. This is known as post embolisation syndrome and is corrected with medication.

  • A little fever

Around 5% of patients tend to suffer severe post embolisation syndrome that can be discomforting and requires you to extend your stay at the facility. The symptoms vary from one patient to another.

After a successful UFE from a qualified and experienced Interventional Radiologist, you should expect the symptoms to vanish. Right after the procedure, you should start noticing a decrease in bleeding, pressure and pelvic pain, and other symptoms of uterine fibroids. Besides, you should also expect an overall improvement in your emotional and physical well-being.

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