Uterine Fibroid Embolization
While there are surgical and other options for the treatment of fibroids, we at VIVA EVE specialize in uterine fibroid embolization, or UFE. There are many advantages to this minimally invasive procedure. Learn more about UFE below and why we think it's often the best fibroid treatment for most women.
What is uterine fibroid embolization (UFE)?
UFE is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure for the treatment of fibroids that has been performed successfully for over two decades. Approximately 14,000 successful UFE procedures are performed annually in the United States, and the procedure is covered by most major insurance companies.
How does UFE work to treat fibroids?
Fibroid tumors need a blood supply to stay alive and grow. The UFE procedure blocks the blood supply to the fibroid -- without affecting the blood supply to the uterus. Without a blood supply, the fibroid shrinks and disappears. UFE is effective on most sizes and types of fibroids and multiple fibroids can be treated at the same time.
How do I get screened for UFE?
Either your doctor or a VIVA EVE physician can determine whether you're a good candidate for a UFE procedure. The consultation process includes an initial consultation, some testing and imaging, a review of your test results, and a final pre-operative consulation with the specialist doctor who will perform your UFE so that you and the doctor can decide together whether a UFE is right for you.
Your pre-UFE appointments, like the UFE procedure itself, are covered by most major insurances.
How is the UFE procedure performed?
A VIVA EVE UFE is performed when the patient is under moderate sedation (not asleep) and sometimes a local anesthetic. It does not require general anesthesia.
The interventional radiologist makes a tiny incision in the wrist or groin and inserts a catheter into the radial or femoral artery. Using real-time imaging, the doctor guides the catheter through the artery into the uterine arteries that supply blood to the fibroids. The doctor then releases tiny particles — the size of grains of sand — into the uterine arteries to stop the flow of blood to the fibroid.
What is the UFE procedure like?
The outpatient VIVA EVE UFE procedure typically lasts less than one hour, and you will likely go home within 2-3 hours.
While at the VIVA EVE facility, the post-procedure care is provided by skilled nurses and your interventional radiologist.
During the recovery, you may experience some discomfort, similar to menstrual cramps. You and your VIVA EVE doctor will determine what medications may be needed to keep you comfortable (in most cases, over-the-counter medication is enough).
What is follow-up like? How long is the UFE recovery time?
VIVA EVE patients highly praise every aspect of their experience -- and are especially impressed by the diligent and thoughtful follow-up care from our trained staff and physicians.
Most women are able to return to light activity within a few days after the UFE treatment and are usually back to work and to normal activity within a week.
What are the advantages of UFE as a treatment for fibroids?
Studies show that nearly 90% of women who undergo UFE experience significant or complete resolution of their fibroid-related symptoms.
In addition, because it is a minimally invasive procedure, UFE has significant advantages over conventional surgical fibroid treatments, hysterectomy and myomectomy, such as:
- Lower complication rates -- for example, from infection or injury to the uterus
- Much shorter recovery time -- a few days to a week, compared to weeks for conventional surgery
- A uterus that is left intact -- compared to the removal with a hysterectomy
- Recurrence of UFE-treated fibroids is lower than with myomectomy.
Who is a good candidate for UFE?
Most women who are good candidates for hysterectomy or myomectomy are good candidates for UFE. In addition, many candidates for whom major surgery presents additional risks may be candidates for the less-invasive VIVA EVE UFE.
How safe is UFE?
For over two decades, uterine fibroid embolization has been successfully performed tens of thousands of times a year. The procedure has significantly lower complication rates than major surgeries such as hysterectomy or myomectomy. A VIVA EVE UFE eliminates three major sources of risk: general anesthesia, hospitalization, and open surgery.
Of course, as with any medical procedure, there are some associated but rare risks. Your VIVA EVE doctor will review these with you in light of your personal circumstances as part of your pre-procedure screenings.
History of UFE
In 1974, French neuroradiologist Jean-Jacques Merland first successfully used the UFE procedure to treat heavy menstrual bleeding caused by fibroids.
A few years later, Dr. Merland teamed up with gynecologist Dr. Jacques Ravina, and together they began using UFE to stop the blood flow to fibroids before removing them surgically to prevent excessive bleeding during the procedure. They soon discovered that in many cases, their patients’ fibroids would shrink after the UFE and there was often no need for the surgery at all.
By the early 1990s, doctors in the U.S. were treating fibroids with UFE, and today the procedure is performed in medical centers around the world.