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Is Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) the Right Treatment for You?

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Visit the Johns Hopkins Vascular and Interventional Radiology site to learn more about the uterine fibroid embolization procedure.

If you’ve been diagnosed with having uterine fibroids, there are many treatment options for you to consider. Fibroids are the most frequently seen tumors of the female reproductive system and more than 99 percent of the time the tumors are benign (non-cancerous). 

Though most are benign, they may range in size, from the size of a pea to the size of a softball or small grapefruit and can cause heavy periods, pelvic pressure, bloating, urinary frequency, and constipation. Treatments can vary from monitoring to a hysterectomy and will vary depending on the patient’s age, symptoms, previous treatments and successes, and desire to have children.

Brian Holly, M.D., an interventional radiologist with the Johns Hopkins Interventional Radiology Center, specializes in treating uterine fibroids through a treatment called uterine fibroid embolization (UFE). He states that “nine out of 10 patients who undergo uterine fibroid embolization will experience significant improvement or their symptoms will go away completely with minimal recovery time.” 

Four Things You Should Know About Uterine Fibroid Embolization

  • It’s a non-surgical, minimally invasive treatment option for uterine fibroids
  • Your uterus remains preserved
  • Lower complication rate with reductions in pain and blood loss
  • Reduced recovery time so most patients return home the same day and return to normal activities within one week

How is UFE performed?

UFE is performed by an interventional radiologist who inserts a thin catheter into the artery at the groin or wrist. The incision is roughly the size of a tip of a pencil. The radiologist guides the catheter to the fibroid's blood supply where small particles, about the size of grains of sand, are released to float downstream and block the small blood vessels and deprive the fibroid of nutrients. 

This results in the fibroid softening, bleeding less, and shrinking in size. Approximately nine out of 10 patients who undergo uterine fibroid embolization will experience significant improvement or their symptoms will go away completely.

What would make me ineligible for UFE? 

Patients should discuss their ability to proceed with UFE with their provider. Patients with an active pelvic infection, certain uncorrectable bleeding problems, endometrial cancer, extremely large fibroids, or a desire for fertility preservation are poor candidates for this procedure.

What happens after my UFE procedure? 

Most patients go home the same day or the following day with cramping and pain. Fever is an occasional side effect that is treated with acetaminophen. Many women resume light activity within a few days and regular activity in a week. UFE is effective for multiple fibroids, and the reoccurrence of treated fibroids is very rare.  

Providers will reach out to patients a month following treatment via the phone or quick clinic visit. An MRI will be done at six months to check symptom improvement and again at one year if symptoms persist. 

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