Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a procedure to treat uterine fibroids.

UFE is also referred to as UAE or Uterine Artery Embolization. However, UAE relates to treatment for severe pelvic bleeding that may or may not be due to uterine fibroids. UFE, on the other hand, is for the treatment of uterine fibroids.

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are tumours that grow inside the walls of the uterus. They can be one tumour or a cluster of tumours growing simultaneously.

Uterine fibroids are a common occurrence in most women. The fibroids can grow as large as a grapefruit or even larger. The reason for their occurrence is not clear. Although most of the tumours are not cancerous, they can cause bloating, pain and heavy periods.

How does Uterine Fibroid Embolization work?

Fibroids feed on a steady blood supply and hormones, helping them grow. UFE blocks the blood supply to the fibroids and thus shrinks them.

What is the UFE procedure?

  • UFE is a minimally invasive procedure usually performed under local anaesthesia.
  • A catheter is inserted into a small cut made in the groin. It is directed into the blood vessels connected to the fibroids.
  • The catheter delivers a compound made of plastic or gel that is placed in the blood vessel.
  • The compound blocks the blood supply to the fibroids. As a result, the fibroids shrink in six months without blood supply. However, symptoms begin to improve within weeks.

What are the indications for using UFE?

  • Heavy bleeding or menorrhagia caused by fibroids
  • Adenomyosis or abnormal uterus cell growth
  • Extremely painful menses (Dysmenorrhoea)

What are the advantages of UFE?

  1. Minimally invasive procedure.
  2. Hospitalization is mostly just for a day.
  3. The procedure is done under local anaesthesia.
  4. Complications after the procedure are less.
  5. It effectively treats multiple fibroids, including large ones in one sitting. The patient can therefore return to normalcy within a few days.
  6. In most cases, there is no recurrence of treated fibroids. This non-recurrence is because all fibroids, including tiny masses in the early stage, are treated via UFE.
  7. More than 85 per cent of women who have had UFE done reported positive experience from UFE.

Drawbacks of UFE:

UFE is contraindicated in case of acute infection, pregnancy or malignant fibroids.

UFE treatment experience in Delhi:

If you live in or around Delhi and seek UFE, many facilities and expert doctors are available. Below is the first-hand experience of a woman from Delhi who chose to have her uterine fibroids treated via UFE.

She said, “My doctor, who happened to be the best gynaecologist in south delhi, advised hysterectomy for my uterine fibroids. She did not say anything about Uterine Fibroid Embolization. However, I did not want a hysterectomy.”

When asked why she wanted to avoid a hysterectomy, this is what she said:

  • “I did not want my uterus to be removed, although I did not intend to have more children.
  • I didn’t want surgery as I had experienced harmful side effects with general anaesthesia.
  • Lastly, I did not want to be hospitalized for an extended period during this pandemic (covid 19). UFE is less invasive, and hospital stay is significantly less.”

She continued, “I researched on treating fibroids and came across UFE. The more I researched and read, the more I was convinced this is what I wanted!”

About her hospitalization:

“A leading doctor in a reputed hospital at Delhi performed the UFE. I had to stay in the hospital for just one day. I experienced pain immediately after the procedure, but medication eased it. As most hospitals accept a health card, I didn’t have to worry about the cost of treatment.”

What was the effect of UFE?

“My menstrual cycles are much better with a reduction in bleeding. I experienced huge relief in symptoms. Earlier, due to very heavy menstrual cycles and consequent blood loss, I was severely anaemic. I was always tired and sleepy. Now I feel fitter and can do my daily tasks without feeling like I am moving mountains! However, it takes about three months to see remarkable improvements. My fibroids have not yet shrunk as the doctor says it will take six months for them to shrink.”

Her advice for other women:

“If you don’t want a hysterectomy, you may want to consider UFE. Doctors will decide whether you are a candidate for the procedure after looking at the size of your fibroids. I have already got a lot of relief. I have my fingers crossed for more improvements!”

Takeaways: Uterine Fibroid Embolization is effective, safe and non-invasive. Most women experience a substantial reduction or complete resolution of symptoms related to uterine fibroids.