Uterine Fibroid Embolisation
Uterine fibroid embolisation is a minimally-invasive procedure. It offers a safe and effective alternative to surgery in the treatment of fibroids for some women.
Fibroids are growths that develop in the walls of the uterus (womb). They can cause heavy periods and other symptoms. A hysterectomy (a surgical removal of the uterus) or myomectomy (a surgical removal of the fibroids) is offered to some women to treat fibroids. However, this type of surgery has a long recovery time and risk of complications.
You might need a uterine fibroid embolisation if you have been diagnosed with fibroids that are causing unpleasant symptoms. While some women with fibroids may not experience any symptoms, others may experience very heavy painful periods which can cause anaemia. The fibroids may press on the bladder or bowel, causing constipation or urgency to urinate. They may also cause bloating of the abdomen.
In some women, fibroid symptoms may be successfully controlled using tablets or a mirena coil. However, if these measure don’t work or there is pressure on the bladder or bowel, you may be offered uterine fibroid embolisation or surgery. There are pros and cons to each.
While a hysterectomy generally leads to complete relief from symptoms, it has a slightly higher complication rate and a longer recovery time. Another alternative for some women is myomectomy, which is surgical removal of the fibroids, which leaves the uterus intact.
This is a good option for those who may be concerned about future fertility. However, complication rates and recovery times are similar to hysterectomies. Uterine fibroid embolisation has a good success rate and lower risk of complications than more invasive surgery.
A uterine fibroid embolisation blocks the arteries that supply blood to the fibroids, causing them to shrink.
It involves inserting an extremely thin, flexible plastic tube into the blood vessel in the groin or wrist. After giving you a local anaesthetic and a sedative to help you relax, we use X-ray to carefully guide the tube into the arteries supplying blood to the fibroids.
Once we can see that it is correctly positioned, tiny particles are introduced into the arteries to block them. The whole procedure takes around an hour. You will need to stay in hospital overnight but can normally go home the next day.
A uterine fibroid embolisation produces a cramping pain similar to intense period pains. This can last for up to 12 hours and you will be given strong painkillers to manage this. By the following day, the pains are usually mild and you can go home.
The fibroids will continue to shrink and die away over the next nine to 12 months and you will normally see a gradual reduction in symptoms.
Uterine fibroid embolisation is a safe and effective procedure that offers a good alternative to more invasive surgical procedures. Women normally report a gradual improvement in their symptoms. After 12 months, 85-90% have a noticeable improvement in symptoms. Five years after the procedure, three quarters of patients have maintained these improvements.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that satisfaction levels were high with both surgery and embolisation. There was a greater risk of complications with surgery. However, those undergoing uterine fibroid embolisation were more likely to require follow-up procedures to control symptoms. Talk to us about the best type of treatment for you.
The risks associated with embolisation are generally lower than with more invasive types of surgery. They include cramping pain, discharge and passing the fibroids, infection, ovarian failure or a small risk of missing a malignant growth.
We will discuss the benefits and risks with you before the procedure to enable you to make an informed decision.
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