The Benefits and Risks Of The Uterine Artery Embolization Procedure

November 12, 2012

The Benefits and Risks Of The Uterine Artery Embolization Procedure

The uterine fibroid embolization procedure is conducted to help women overcome the symptoms that come from the appearance of fibroid tumors in the uterus.

When you have fibroid tumors in your uterus, you may undergo a minimally invasive treatment known as uterine fibroid embolization (or uterine artery embolization). Uterine artery embolization, however, isn’t just for treating fibroids.

Uterine Artery Embolization: What Are Fibroid Tumors

These are benign tumors that occur because of the uterus’ muscular wall. In rare occasions, they do become cancer tumors. However, they’re generally associated with extremely heavy menstrual bleeding, pressure on both the bowels and bladder and pelvic pain.

In a UAE procedure, your doctors will use a fluoroscope, an x-ray camera, to guide small particles to the fibroids and uterus. These small particles will be injected through a catheter. They’ll block the arteries providing the blood flow so that the fibroids shrink. Approximately 90 percent of all women will see their symptoms decrease.

It’s not clear if fertility is affected with this procedure. With that in mind, it should only be conducted on women who don’t want to become pregnant anymore or who want or need to avoid the possibility of hysterectomy.

The uterine artery embolization procedure has been done to stop serious pelvic bleeding that’s been caused by:

  • Hemorrhage after giving birth

  • Injury

  • Malignant gynecological tumors

Your doctor will use either an ultrasound or an MRI to determine if the tumors are the root of your symptoms and to determine how many there are, their size and where they are located in the uterus. Your doctor may also do a laparoscopy to look at the uterus directly. If you bleed heavily between periods, your doctor will get a biopsy of the endometrium to rule cancer out.

Uterine Artery Embolization: What You’ll Need To Do

IMPORTANT: Make sure you let your doctor know of any medications and herbs you may be taken as well as any allergies you have. Let him/her know of any recent illnesses or medical conditions you have. If you’re pregnant, you need to make him/her aware of that as well so that the fetus is not exposed to radiation. If an x-ray is warranted, steps will be taken to reduce the possibility of radiation exposure.

You should not eat or drink anything after 12 a.m., the night before the procedure. And, your physician will tell you what medicines you should take. Prepare yourself to stay overnight after the procedure.

A Quick Overview Of The Uterine Artery Embolization Procedure

The UAE is an image-guided procedure that utilizes a high definition x-ray camera to aid the trained specialist to place the catheter into the uterine arteries so that particles can be delivered. You’ll be in an exam table, either in an operating room or a cath lab. You’ll be hooked to monitors to keep an eye on your blood pressure, heart rate and pulse while the procedure is conducted.

An IV will be placed into your hand or arm to give you sedative medicine or you’ll get a general anesthesia. The region where the catheter will be placed will be shaved, sterilized and covered. The area will be numbed by the doctor using a local anesthetic, which is where a tiny nick will be made into the skin.

The catheter is placed into the femoral artery with the help of the x-ray machine. A contrast material will maneuver into the arteries. When the procedure is over, the catheter is removed and pressure is placed on the area to stop the bleeding. A dressing will be placed on the skin opening, meaning there will be no sutures. The IV line will be taken out and you’ll stay in the hospital overnight for observation and given pain medication.

The whole process takes 90 minutes tops, barring complications.

6 Benefits Of Uterine Artery Embolization Process

  1. Not as invasive as open surgery.

  2. One tiny nick is made into the skin so stitches are not needed.

  3. Patients can resume normal activities several weeks earlier than hysterectomy patients.

  4. Little blood loss during the procedure, recovery time is shorter and general anesthesia is usually not needed.

  5. According to follow up studies, approximately 90 percent of women see relief from their symptoms with fibroids shrinking to half the original volume.

  6. Follow up studies shows it’s rare for new development of fibroids or fibroid regrowth after the UAE.

8 Possible Risks Associated With Uterine Artery Embolization

  1. Possible damage to blood vessels, bleeding, infection and bruising…although they are extremely rare.

  2. Possible infection needing treatment is rare but can happen.

  3. Embolic agent can get stuck in wrong area and cut off oxygen supply to normal tissue.

  4. Possible allergic reaction to contrast material.

  5. Possibility of passing tiny pieces of fibroid tissues after procedure.

  6. Up to five percent of women experience menopause; though it usually occurs in women over 45 years of age.

  7. There’s a possibility of a hysterectomy because infections or tenacious symptoms

  8. X-ray exposure

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