What is the reason of the UFE procedure success and how is it performed?
Uterine fibroid embolization is a nonsurgical alternative to hysterectomy or other surgical methods of treatment of uterine fibroids. Its main advantages are the absence of scar and surgical complications, quick recovery (less than a week), minimal risk of relapse, preservation of all organs of the female reproductive system.
Today all treatment options have their advantages and disadvantages; UFE is the safest and most effective treatment method. Thousands of women around the world have already experienced its benefits: unpleasant symptoms disappear often on the day of the procedure, and after a few days the woman returns to her usual lifestyle, without pain and heavy periods, without fibroids.
How is the uterine fibroid embolization procedure performed?
UFE is not a surgical procedure; it does not require cutting or anesthesia. But despite the fact that the procedure usually lasts only 30-40 minutes, it is quite complicated and requires the highest level of skill from the Interventional Radiologist performing it.
The procedure is done in an outpatient facility with special medical equipment.
The doctor makes a small puncture in the upper thigh (or sometimes a wrist), inserts a thin catheter into the femoral artery and leads it into the uterine arteries.
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The catheter must be in the correct position so that the drug hits exactly the right vessel. For the purpose of control, a radiopaque solution of iodine is injected into the artery through a catheter, then the UFE solution is injected; it is microscopic balls (much similar looking to caviar) that block the blood flow.
It is absolutely painless because there are no nerve endings in vessels, and the doctor performs local anesthesia at the puncture site. You can only feel light heat in the lower abdomen when the doctor injects the radiopaque solution.
Here is approximately what happens to the patient after the procedure:
1. The doctor will remove the catheter and close the puncture site. In just two to three hours, you can bend your leg. After 6-7 hours you can get out of bed, eat.
2. In the first hours after the procedure, you may be disturbed by some pain, a slight fever, weakness, some spotting from the vagina. This is a good sign that fibroids are dying. In most cases, in the evening the patient can go home. However, sometimes it is recommended to spend the first day after the procedure under the supervision of your doctor.
Over the next few weeks, you will have to stick to some rules not to interfere with the recovery process.
3. A month after the procedure, you can exercise and resume sexual activity, take hot baths, and go to sauna.
4. After 3 months, the doctor should see you for a check up. Usually, by this time, fibroids are reduced by 20-30%. After 6–8 months, the tumor decreases by 50–70%. It now looks like a grape or a raisin.
Important: fibroids no longer exist. They are replaced by connective tissue, which is absolutely not harmful to health and cannot interfere with pregnancy.
As a rule, patients can begin planning pregnancy and try to conceive 3-4 months after the procedure, if the doctor does not find any abnormalities.
In almost 99% of cases, patients do not need any other treatment after UFE.
If Your Gynecologist Is Against the UFE Procedure
It often happens that a woman learns about the UFE method, decides to try it, and the gynecologist discourages her. These can be stories about serious complications or inability to have children in the future. The OB/GYN may insist on surgical treatment, and there are several reasons for this.
The main reason is that embolization is not performed everywhere; special medical equipment and tools are needed, which are available only in equipped medical centers. In addition, the procedure is carried out not by Gynecologists but by an experienced Interventional Radiologist like Dr. John Lipman.
If your gynecologist discourages you from the UFE procedure, contact Dr. Lipman for a second opinion. Find out if you are a candidate for the procedure before you opt in for a surgical solution to avoid the risks of surgery.