Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) (also called uterine artery embolization) is another option for treating uterine fibroids. It shrinks or destroys uterine fibroids by blocking the artery that supplies blood to them. During a UFE procedure, a radiologist places a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into the upper thigh and guides it into the uterine artery that supplies blood to the fibroids. A solution is then injected into the uterine artery through the catheter.
UFE is a nonsurgical alternative to hysterectomy or myomectomy. It relieves fibroid symptoms for most women. But in rare cases it can lead to complications such as serious infection or early menopause.
UFE may be a reasonable treatment option when:
- You have no childbearing plans. Pregnancy is possible after UFE, but the risks to pregnancy after UFE are not fully known.
- Heavy uterine bleeding and/or anemia has continued after several months of therapy with birth control hormones and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
- You have fibroid pain or pelvic pressure that affects your quality of life.
- You have urinary or bowel problems from a fibroid that is pressing on your bladder, ureter, or bowel.
- You do not wish to have a hysterectomy or myomectomy.
- You have a disease or disorder that makes surgery with general anesthesia dangerous.
Another treatment used to destroy fibroids without surgery is MRI-guided focused ultrasound. This treatment uses high-intensity ultrasound waves to break down the fibroids. Studies show that this treatment is safe and works well at relieving symptoms. But more studies are needed to find out if it works over time.2 This treatment may not be available everywhere.
Endometrial ablation is a treatment that destroys the lining of the uterus. It may use a laser beam, heat, electricity, freezing, or microwaves. As the lining of the uterus heals, it will scar. This scarring reduces or prevents bleeding.
What to think about
Pregnancy is possible after UFE. Whenever you need to prevent pregnancy after UFE, be sure to use a dependable form of birth control.
Heavy, prolonged, and painful periods caused by uterine fibroids will stop naturally when you reach menopause. If you are nearing menopause and your symptoms are tolerable with home treatment or medicines, then the benefits of UFE may not outweigh the risks.