Uterine Fibroid Embolization
Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive, nonsurgical treatment for uterine fibroids that preserves the uterus. UFE works by blocking the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink.
UFE is performed by a team of physicians under the direction of Marc L. Friedman, MD, chief of Vascular and Interventional Radiology and director of the Uterine Fibroid Embolization Program.
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Fibroids are benign (not cancerous) masses of muscle tissue in the uterine wall. These growths can be very tiny or as large as a cantaloupe. In most cases, there is more than one fibroid. They are not associated with cancer, very rarely develop into cancer and do not increase the risk of uterine cancer.
Fibroids are also known by the names fibromyoma, leiomyoma, leiomyomata and myoma. They are named according to their position within the uterus: submucosal, intramural, and subserosal. A submucosal fibroid lies just under the inner lining of the uterus, the endometrium. Some of these fibroids grow on a stalk. These are referred to as "pedunculated." An intramural fibroid lies completely within the muscular wall of the uterus. A serosal or subserosal fibroid lies on the outer part of the uterus, just under the covering of the outside of the uterus, the serosa. Subserosal fibroids may also grow on a stalk and be called pedunculated.
Abnormal bleeding is usually caused by submucosal or intramural fibroids. Intramural and subserosal fibroids are the usual cause of pelvic pain, back pain, and the generalized pressure that many women experience, especially around their period.
What Symptoms Do They Cause?
Because fibroids can be very small, they are not always associated with symptoms. The most common symptoms from uterine fibroids are heavy or prolonged menstrual periods which can result in anemia, and pelvic pain and pressure.
Additional symptoms include:
- Pain in the back or legs as the fibroids press on nerves that supply the pelvis and legs
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Bladder pressure leading to frequent urination and a constant urge to urinate
- Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation and bloating
- Abnormally enlarged abdomen
Who Is at Risk of Getting Fibroids?
It is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of women over the age of 35 have uterine fibroids. Though very common, most fibroids do not cause symptoms and do not require treatment.
African-American women are at a greater risk. Fifty percent may have fibroids of significant size.
Most women with fibroids begin to develop symptoms in their late 30s or 40s.
Fibroids often stop growing, or even shrink, after menopause.
What Causes Fibroids?
The cause of fibroids is unknown. It is suspected that a combination of genetics
and hormones may be responsible.
Is UFE Right for Me?
You may be a candidate for UFE if you have fibroid symptoms such as:
- Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods
- Pelvic pain or pressure
You are typically not a candidate for UFE if:
- You are pregnant
- You have already gone through menopause
- You have pelvic inflammatory disease
- You have fibroids without any symptoms
Benefits of UFE
Studies have shown that patients who undergo UFE typically have shorter recovery times, return to work more quickly and have fewer complications after 30 days.