Uterine fibroids are the most common benign or non-cancerous tumors that often affect about a third to half of the women of childbearing age. These growths range in size; they can be as small as the size of a pea or as large as a softball. If you are symptomatic from fibroids but don’t wish to undergo surgery like a hysterectomy, your Alate Health specialist may recommend uterine fibroid embolization.
What is uterine fibroid embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that involves blocking off the fibroids’ blood supply causing them to shrink. Unlike hysterectomy, this procedure doesn’t use major surgery, meaning recovery is faster. During uterine fibroid embolization, the doctor injects small particles like sand into the arteries supplying blood to the fibroids. The particles stick to the blood vessels, causing a clot to develop and eventually blocking the blood supply. Once the blood supply is gone, the fibroids shrink, and symptoms ease or go away over time.
What are the risks of uterine artery embolization?
Uterine artery embolization is associated with several complications that include blood clots, infection of the uterus of the puncture site, abnormal bleeding, and infertility. Other possible complications include uterus damage, loss of menstrual periods, injury to the artery, and hematoma. Some women experience symptoms after the procedure; these include low-grade fever, pelvic pain, cramping fatigue, and nausea and vomiting.
Postembolization syndrome symptoms may last for a few days to a week. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines to treat the pain and may also recommend medication to help with nausea. Some women, especially those older than 45, will go through menopause after the procedure. Uterine fibroid embolization doesn’t involve uterus removal, meaning you could still have a baby. However, more research is needed to determine how the procedure compromises fertility and pregnancy.
Some risks may be unique to you, so it is vital to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Preparing for uterine artery embolization
First, you will have an initial consultation with your healthcare provider to know the ins and outs of the procedure. You may need to sign a consent form; read the form carefully and ask questions if you are unsure about anything. Your doctor may perform a physical exam to ensure you are in good health and order other tests, including blood tests.
Your doctor may ask several questions, including whether you are allergic to iodine, latex, tape, or local and general anesthesia. You may need to provide a list of all your medicines, including over-the-counter medicines, prescriptions, and herbal supplements. Inform your healthcare provider if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking anticoagulants or other drugs that affect blood clotting
What happens during uterine artery embolization?
The details of uterine artery embolization vary depending on your condition and your specialist’s practices. But generally, here is what the process involves.
- You will remove clothing, jewelry, and other objects that may get in the way of the procedure.
- Your provider inserts an IV line in your arm and may administer antibiotic medicine before the procedure.
- The doctor inserts a catheter through a blood vessel in your wrist or leg and injects small particles into the blood vessel feeding the fibroids.
- Once the procedure is done, the doctor removes the sheath and catheter
If you have further questions about uterine artery embolization, consult your doctor at Alate Health.