Uterine Fibroid Embolization: Treating a common disease without surgery

Vast majority of women with fibroids benefit from this treatment

For women who suffer from painful uterine fibroids, here’s some welcome news: relief is often just one minimally invasive procedure away.

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is the most common advanced treatment Mecklenburg Radiology Associates’ interventional radiologists perform. We perform UFE several times a week on women who are seeking relief from fibroid symptoms without a major surgery, such as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or a myomectomy (surgical removal of fibroids).

Uterine fibroids are the most common non-cancerous tumors in women of childbearing age, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Fibroids are made of muscle cells and other tissues that grow in and around the wall of the uterus, and their cause is unknown. 

The National Institutes of Health estimates that up to 80 percent of American women will have fibroids by age 50, and about 25-30% of cases require treatment. African American women are more at risk for symptomatic fibroids, as are women who are overweight.

Patients who come to us have generally been experiencing their symptoms for a prolonged time. Those symptoms include:

  • Periods that are heavier, longer, or more painful, as well as bleeding between cycles  
  • Anemia
  • Bloating or a feeling of “fullness” in the lower abdomen
  • Problems urinating — going too much or being unable to go 
  • Constipation
  • Pain during sex
  • Lower back pain
Dr. Andrew Demmert

Fortunately, about 95 percent of women with symptoms from fibroids will qualify for UFE, said Dr. Andrew Demmert, one of our interventional radiologists. 

The procedure is greater than 90 percent effective. It is worth mentioning that the small percentage of women for whom UFE does not provide relief may still be able to undergo surgical treatment for their fibroids.

During UFE, our interventional radiologists use image guidance and a catheter — inserted into the wrist or groin — to inject small particles into the uterine arteries. The particles block the blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink. The procedure takes about 90 minutes to two hours. Symptoms should decrease as the fibroids continue to get smaller in the following weeks and months. In addition to fibroids, this procedure is also effective for treating adenomyosis, the disordered growth of the endometrium of the uterus.

We want women and their referring gynecologists to know that they don’t have to suffer any longer.

“Don’t hesitate to get us involved,” Demmert said. “This is a great option for a vast majority of women who suffer from fibroids — without them having to have a more invasive surgery.”

Patients can expect to take a week to recover and the only real restrictions on their activity are heavy lifting and bending at the hip. Those who work a desk job can expect to be back at work within two to three days. By contrast, it can take up to six to eight weeks to fully recover from a hysterectomy.

Before their visit with our team, patients can expect to first undergo a pelvic MRI. The information we get from those images will help guide our treatment, including the type of device and the embolic agent we will use.

Our team of doctors is qualified and ready to help women say goodbye to the pain and discomfort of fibroids. Reach out to us today at 704.384.9654.