• Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE)

    What is a fibroid?

    A fibroid is a benign tumor that arises from the uterus. Uterine fibroids are the most frequent indication for hysterectomy in pre-menopausal women and pose a major public health concern. Of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed annually in the United States, a third is due to fibroids.

    What are the symptoms?

    About 20 percent of women who have fibroids require treatment.

    Usual symptoms are:

    • Heavy, prolonged irregular menstrual cycles that can lead to anemia
    • Pelvic pain and pressure
    • Pain in the back and legs
    • Pain during sexual intercourse
    • Bladder pressure leading to a frequent urge to urinate
    • Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation and bloating
    • Abnormally enlarged abdomen

    Why is interventional radiology important in diagnosing UFE?

    Imaging expertise enables interventional radiologists to provide gynecologists and their patients better diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment options.

    MRI improves the patient selection for uterine fibroid embolizaton (UFE) to kill their tumors. Interventional radiologists can use an MRI to determine if a tumor can be embolized, detect alternate causes for the symptoms and identify pathology that could prevent a woman from having UFE and to avoid ineffective treatments.

    How is the UFE procedure performed?

    About 15,000 UFEs are performed a year in the United States. This procedure has been performed for the last 20 years.

    It is performed by an interventional radiologist, a physician who is trained to perform this and other types of embolization and minimally invasive procedures. A UFE is performed while the patient is conscious but sedated and feeling no pain. It usually does not require general anesthesia.


    Only a small nick in the skin is required which does not need to be stitched. The interventional radiologist then inserts a catheter into the femoral artery and guides it into the uterine arteries. Tiny plastic particles are injected through the catheter into uterine arteries to cut the blood supply to the tumor, causing the fibroids to shrink. The skin puncture where the catheter was inserted is then cleaned and covered with a bandage.

    After the procedure is done, the patient stays in the hospital overnight. Medications that control pain and swelling are typically prescribed following the procedure. Fever sometimes occurs after embolization and is usually treated with acetaminophen.

    What are the benefits of UFE?

    Blood loss during uterine fibroid embolization is minimal and the majority of women resume normal activities in seven to 10 days, which is much shorter than a hysterectomy. Eighty-five to to 90 percent of patients have significant or total relief of symptoms. Follow-up studies have shown that it is rare for fibroids to grow after embolization.


    What are the risks?

    • Bleeding and infection at puncture site
    • Allergic reaction to dye injected during procedure
    • Plastic beads lodging into different sites and cutting off blood supply
    • Rarely infections that can require surgery

    What is the effect on fertility?

    There have been numerous reports of pregnancies following uterine fibroid embolization; however prospective studies are needed to determine the effects of UFE on the ability of a woman to have children.

    One study comparing the fertility of women who had UFE with those who had myomectomy showed similar numbers of successful pregnancies. However, this study has not yet been confirmed by other investigators.

    To make an appointment:

    Contact Interventional Radiology at 607-547-3663.