Understanding Uterine Artery Embolization

Understanding Uterine Artery Embolization

What is Uterine Artery Embolization?

Uterine Artery Embolization is when fibroids are treated by blocking the blood vessels that are supplying blood to them. This is a common procedure and causes the fibroids to shrink.

Fibroids: Benign tumors that originate in the muscle part of the uterus.

Why should I have a UAE procedure?

UAE helps ease the heavy bleeding and lower belly pressure caused by fibroids. Compared with surgery to treat fibroids, UAE:

  • Takes less time
  • Does not require any cuts (incisions) in the belly
  • Has a shorter recovery time

What fibroid treatment options are there?

  • Birth control and other hormonal birth control methods are often used to control heavy bleeding and painful menstrual cycles.
  • Gonadotropin- releasing hormone agonists stop menstrual cycles and can shrink fibroid.
  • Progestin-releasing IUD’s can reduce heavy and painful bleeding but does not treat the actual fibroid.
  • Hysteroscopy: A procedure that allows doctors to look inside the uterus in order to diagnose and treat causes of abnormal bleeding. 
  • Myomectomy: An operation to remove fibroids while preserving the uterus and possibly removing the submucosol fibroid. Depending on the size, number and location of your fibroids, you may be eligible for an abdominal myomectomy, a laparoscopic myomectomy, or a hysteroscopic myomectomy.
  • Endometrial Ablation: This procedure includes destroying the endometrium or uterine lining to reduce or completely stop menstrual bleeding.
  • Uterine Artery Embolization: This procedure is done by a radiologist and it blocks blood flow to the fibroids.

What is the procedure process?

If you are having UAE, you can be treated at the GYN Surgical Center. You will get medicines (called “anesthesia”) to block pain in the lower half of your body and to make you feel relaxed. But you will stay awake.

The doctor will then insert a thin tube (called a “catheter”) into the artery at the top of one leg and advance it up to your uterus. With the tube in place, the doctor will inject a special dye that can be seen on X-rays to show the arteries that bring blood to the fibroid. Next, the doctor will inject tiny plastic beads into the artery to block the blood flow to the fibroid.

Afterward, the doctor will repeat the same steps on the other side. The procedure takes about 1 hour. Sometimes an overnight stay is required, depending on your specific recovery status. 

Post Procedure

Most women have lower belly pain and cramping after the procedure. These symptoms are usually worst the first 2 days after the procedure and can last up to 7 days. Some women have discharge or bleeding from the vagina for 2 weeks after UAE. Sometimes, the bleeding lasts for months. Some women also:

  • Feel sick to their stomach (nausea)
  • Throw up (vomit)
  • Have a fever
  • Feel tired and achy

If you have these symptoms, your doctor can prescribe pain relievers and other medicines to treat them. You should see your doctor for several follow-up visits during the first year to check that the procedure worked.

Are there risks?

Compared with women treated with surgery, women treated with UAE are more likely to need a second surgery to control heavy bleeding.

UAE does not work well on certain types of fibroids. Also, women who want to get pregnant in the future should not have UAE. Your doctor can help you decide if UAE is right for you.

Can I get pregnant after the procedure?

It is possible to get pregnant after UAE. But after UAE, pregnancy might not be safe for either the mother or the baby. Because of this, doctors advise women who want to get pregnant not to have this procedure. They also advise women to use birth control after the procedure to avoid pregnancy.

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