Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Fibroids are benign (not cancerous) growths of muscle tissue on or inside the uterus. To shrink a fibroid, a procedure called uterine fibroid embolization can be done. It stops the fibroid’s blood supply. The procedure is often done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Closeup of fibroid in wall of uterus. Catheter is inserted in blood vessel on uterus and injecting material into smaller vessels near fibroid.

Before the Procedure

To prepare for your procedure:

  • Do not eat or drink anything for 4 hours before the procedure.

  • Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any foods, medications, or contrast (special x-ray dye).

  • Tell your doctor about any medications, supplements, or herbs you take. Ask whether you should stop taking them before the procedure.

During the Procedure

  • You lie on an x-ray table. An IV line is put into a vein in your arm or hand. This line gives you fluids and medications. You may be given medication that relaxes you and makes you sleepy.

  • Skin on your groin is numbed with local anesthetic. Then, a small incision is made. A needle attached to a thin wire is put through the incision. The wire is put into a blood vessel near the groin.

  • A catheter (long, thin, flexible tube) is placed over the guide wire into the blood vessel.

  • Contrast is injected through the catheter. This helps the blood vessels and catheter show up better on x-rays. The movement of the catheter can then be seen on a video screen.

  • Using x-ray images as a guide, the radiologist moves the catheter through the blood vessel. It is moved into the artery that supplies blood to the uterus.

  • The catheter is moved near the fibroid. The radiologist then injects tiny grains of plastic or spongy material into the artery. These grains flow to the smaller vessels that supply the fibroid and block blood flow to them. The procedure is repeated on the other side of the uterus.

  • The entire procedure takes about 1 to 2 hours.

After the Procedure

You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight. You will likely feel pain and cramping for up to a week. Medications will be prescribed to you to help control this pain. Some vaginal spotting is common for a few days. You may feel tired and have nausea and a fever for a few days after the procedure. During your recovery, care for the incision as directed. You may be able to return to work 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure. Your doctor will tell you more.

Potential Risks and Complications

  • Infection or bruising around the catheter insertion site

  • Blood clot in a blood vessel

  • Problems due to contrast, including allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Infertility or premature menopause

  • Injury to the uterus, requiring a hysterectomy