Uterine fibroids or leiomyomas are abnormal benign growths in the uterus, made of smooth muscle cells and other materials that grow in or on the uterine wall. These noncancerous lesions are very common in women of childbearing age and often don’t cause symptoms. However, uterine fibroids can sometimes cause pain, heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged periods and frequent urination, and fertility issues. While there is no cure for fibroids, Dr. Andrew Doe may recommend minimally invasive treatments such as uterine fibroid embolization to shrink the fibroids and minimize symptoms.
What is uterine fibroid embolization?
Uterine fibroid embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that shrinks fibroids by depriving them of their blood supply using small particles called embolic agents. The doctor injects the embolic agents into the blood vessels that supply the fibroids; these sand-like particles stick to the walls of the arteries, causing a clot to develop, which blocks off the blood supply. Because the fibroids have no blood supply, they eventually shrink, causing your symptom to ease or go away over time.
How to prepare for uterine fibroid embolization
Like any other treatment, you will have an initial discussion with your doctor to understand the procedure. During this session, your doctor will perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound to determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure. These tests will also assess the tumor size, number, and location to help develop your treatment plan. Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant; uterine fibroid embolization is inappropriate for pregnant patients.
Expect to answer several questions about the medication you take, including herbal supplements. Your doctor may ask if you are allergic to general anesthesia, local anesthesia, contrast materials, or iodine. You also want to inform your doctor if you are sensitive or allergic to medicines, latex, or tape. Your doctor may ask you to discontinue nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, or blood thinners to avoid excessive bleeding and bruising. It is also important to tell your healthcare provider about recent illnesses or other medical conditions you may have.
You’ll likely need to fast after midnight before uterine fibroid embolization. Your doctor will tell you if you need to take any medication on the morning of your procedure.
What to expect during uterine fibroid embolization
First, you will remove jewelry or any other object that may interfere with the procedure. You will change into a gown, and your healthcare provider will insert an IV line in your arm or hand. Your doctor may give you an antibiotic before uterine fibroid embolization to prevent an infection. You will lie on your back on the procedure table, and your doctor will insert a catheter into your bladder to drain urine. Your doctor will make a small incision and insert a catheter into the femoral or radial artery. Using x-ray guidance, they will maneuver the catheter to the treatment site and inject the embolic agent through the catheter until all arteries on both sides are blocked. Once the procedure is done, you will spend time in the recovery room, where staff will watch your breathing rate, blood pressure, and pulse.
If you have further questions about uterine artery embolization, consult your doctor at Alate Health.