Women with uterine fibroids can now seek non-invasive treatment right here in The Bahamas. Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat fibroids. Here we answer commonly asked questions about the procedure, after-care and more!

What is UFE?

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), also known as uterine artery embolization, is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat uterine fibroids. Fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus. During UFE, tiny particles are injected into the blood vessels that supply the fibroids, blocking the blood flow to them. This causes the fibroids to shrink and symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and urinary frequency to improve. UFE is an alternative to surgical options like hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or myomectomy (removal of the fibroids).

What is the success rate of UFE?

Generally, UFE has a high success rate in providing symptom relief for women with uterine fibroids. Studies have reported success rates ranging from 85% to 95% in terms of reducing symptoms such as heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, and urinary problems.

Will I still get my period, and will it be heavy?

After undergoing uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), most women will continue to have their menstrual periods. However, the effect of UFE on menstrual flow can vary from person to person.

Are there any risks or side effects?

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is generally considered safe, but like any medical procedure, it carries some risks and potential side effects. Here are a few:

  • Temporary post-procedure symptoms: Following UFE, some women may experience pain, cramping, nausea, and fatigue for a few days. These symptoms can typically be managed with pain medications.
  • Infection: In rare cases, there may be a risk of infection, which can be treated with antibiotics if it occurs.
  • Allergic reactions: Although uncommon, some women may have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used during the procedure or the medications used to control pain or relax the uterus.
  • Damage to surrounding structures: There is a slight risk of injury to the uterus or nearby organs during the procedure, but it is rare.
  • Premature menopause: While uncommon, UFE can occasionally lead to early menopause, especially in women closer to their menopausal age.

It’s important to discuss these potential risks and side effects with your healthcare provider, as they can provide you with more detailed information based on your specific circumstances and help you make an informed decision about the procedure.

Is general anesthesia required?

General anesthesia is typically not required for uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). UFE is usually performed using conscious sedation or local anesthesia. This approach allows you to remain conscious and responsive during the procedure while keeping pain and discomfort well-controlled.

Is the procedure painful?

While some women may feel cramping, pressure, or mild discomfort during certain parts of the procedure, it is generally well-tolerated. Your healthcare team will be there to ensure your comfort and provide pain relief as needed. After the procedure, you may experience temporary post-procedure symptoms such as pain, cramping, or nausea, but these can typically be managed with pain medications.

Is an overnight stay required?

In most cases, an overnight stay is not required after uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). UFE is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, which means you can usually go home on the same day. However, the exact length of hospital stay may vary depending on individual factors and the policies of the healthcare facility.

After the procedure, you will likely be monitored for a brief period to ensure there are no immediate complications. Your healthcare provider will provide post-procedure instructions and determine if you need to stay for observation or if you can be discharged on the same day. It’s important to arrange for someone to drive you home as you may still feel some effects from the sedation medication.

How soon after UFE can I have sex?

After uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), it is generally recommended to wait for at least one to two weeks before engaging in sexual activity. This timeframe allows for the initial healing of the uterine tissue and reduces the risk of complications. However, it’s important to note that the specific recommendations may vary depending on individual factors and the guidance provided by your healthcare provider.

Can my gynecologist perform this procedure?

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is typically performed by an interventional radiologist, rather than a gynecologist. Interventional radiologists are specialists who have specific training and expertise in performing minimally invasive procedures using image guidance.

What type of follow-up care will I need?

After undergoing uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), you will typically require follow-up care to monitor your recovery and ensure the effectiveness of the procedure. The specific follow-up care can vary depending on individual factors and the recommendations of your healthcare provider. Here are some common aspects of follow-up care after UFE:

  • Post-procedure evaluation: You may have a follow-up appointment with your interventional radiologist to evaluate your progress and discuss any immediate concerns or questions you may have.
  • Imaging tests: Follow-up imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI may be scheduled to assess the response of the fibroids to the UFE procedure and monitor their size and location over time.
  • Symptom assessment: Your healthcare provider will assess the improvement of your symptoms, such as reduced menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, or urinary issues, during your follow-up appointments.
  • Pain management: If you experience any discomfort or pain after the procedure, your healthcare provider can recommend appropriate pain management strategies.
  • Long-term monitoring: Depending on your specific case, periodic follow-up appointments may be scheduled to monitor the status of your fibroids and assess the long-term effectiveness of the UFE procedure.

It’s important to attend all scheduled follow-up appointments and communicate any new or ongoing symptoms or concerns to your healthcare provider. They can provide you with personalized guidance and support throughout your recovery journey.

How quickly can I get back to my normal?

The timeline for returning to normal activities after uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) can vary depending on individual factors and the extent of your recovery. While each person’s recovery is unique, here are some general guidelines:

  • Physical recovery: It is common to experience mild to moderate discomfort, cramping, and fatigue for a few days following the procedure. These symptoms typically improve within a week or two. You should gradually be able to resume light activities, such as walking, within a few days. Engaging in more strenuous activities or heavy lifting may need to be delayed for a couple of weeks or as advised by your healthcare provider.
  • Menstrual cycle changes: It may take a few months for your menstrual cycle to stabilize after UFE. Initially, you may experience changes in bleeding patterns, such as lighter or heavier periods. Over time, your menstrual cycle should return to a more regular pattern.
  • Symptom improvement: UFE is intended to provide relief from symptoms associated with uterine fibroids, such as heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, and urinary issues. You may start to notice a reduction in these symptoms within a few weeks to a few months after the procedure, although individual response and timing can vary.

Can I still become pregnant after UFE?

Many women who have undergone UFE have gone on to conceive and have successful pregnancies. However, it’s important to note that the impact of UFE on fertility can vary depending on individual factors, such as the size, location, and number of fibroids, as well as the overall health of the uterus.

UFE can potentially affect fertility in some cases, particularly if the blood supply to the ovaries is compromised or if the procedure causes scarring or damage to the uterus. It’s crucial to discuss your desire for future pregnancies with your healthcare provider before considering UFE. They can provide personalized information and help you weigh the benefits and potential risks of the procedure in relation to your fertility goals.

If preserving fertility is a primary concern, alternative treatments or procedures specifically focused on fertility preservation, such as myomectomy, may be more appropriate. Consulting with a reproductive specialist or fertility expert can provide you with further insights and options specific to your individual situation.

Is there a limit to the number and size of fibroids that can be treated?

There is generally no specific limit on the number or size of fibroids that can be treated with uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). However, the suitability of UFE as a treatment option may depend on various factors, including the size, location, and characteristics of the fibroids, as well as your overall health.

There’s a better way to treat fibroids, now available at Family Medicine Center. Quick and painless, safe, and minimally invasive. Ask us about it. Call 702-9310 or click here.