Uterine Artery Embolization

Uterine artery embolization (UAE) is a procedure to treat fibroids without surgery. Instead, the doctor (a radiologist) uses special imaging methods to treat your uterine fibroids. During the procedure, the blood supply of the fibroids is cut off, causing the fibroids to shrink.UAE is done in the radiology department of a hospital. Usually local anesthesia is used. You will be awake but unable to feel pain. (This is called conscious sedation.) The procedure takes about 60 to 90 minutes. The procedure is usually done this way:

Why the Procedure Is Performed

  • Uterine artery embolization is an effective way to treat fibroids that are not very large. Sometimes women have UAE done after childbirth to treat very heavy vaginal bleeding.
  • Women who may want to become pregnant in the future should NOT have this procedure.

Risks

  • Uterine artery embolization is generally safe. Ask your doctor about these possible problems.
  • A risk for any anesthesia is having a bad reaction to the anesthetic that is used.
  • The risks for any invasive procedure are:

The risks of uterine artery embolization are:

  • Injury to an artery or to the uterus
  • Complications with a future pregnancy. Some of these are intrauterine growth restriction (a condition that causes the baby to grow more slowly than usual in the uterus), preterm delivery (the baby is born early), bleeding after delivery, problems with the placenta, and miscarriage.
  • Pregnancy is not recommended after this procedure
  • Early menopause

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse:

  • If you could be pregnant
  • What drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription

Before your UAE:

  • You may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), warfarin (Coumadin), and any other drugs that make it hard for your blood to clot.
  • Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
  • If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your doctor or nurse for help.

On the day of your UAE :

  • You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything for 6 to 8 hours before this procedure.
  • Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.

 

After the Procedure

  • Women usually stay in the hospital overnight after UAE. Some women are able to go home a few hours after treatment, but this is less common.
  • You will receive pain medicine. You will be asked to lie flat for 4 to 6 hours after the procedure.
  • Pelvic cramps are common for the first 24 hours after the procedure. They may last for 2 weeks. Cramps may be severe and may last more than 6 hours at a time.
  • The treated fibroid tissue may pass through your vagina.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Uterine artery embolization usually works well to decrease pain, pressure, and bleeding from fibroids. Up to 30% of women who have UAE done: