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Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Eighty percent of women over the age of 50 have uterine fibroid tumors, and for most they present no problems at all. Some women, however, experience severe pain, bloating and heavy bleeding during menstruation due to the fibroids. Rush-Copley offers a number of treatment options for fibroid tumors, including uterine fibroid embolization. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths in or on the walls of the uterus. They can range in size, from as small as a quarter of an inch up to several inches in diameter.

What symptoms do they cause?

Usually fibroids cause no problems and most women are unaware of them. However, some women experience symptoms in varying degrees of severity including:

  • Heavy or prolonged periods, sometimes with clots
  • Anemia
  • Pain or pressure in the pelvic region or in the legs
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Bloating or an enlarged belly
  • Constipation

How can uterine fibroids be treated at Rush-Copley?

Once your physician has determined that fibroids are the cause of your symptoms, Rush-Copley offers several treatment options. A surgeon can remove the fibroids or perform a hysterectomy to remove the uterus if appropriate. Medications may shrink the tumors temporarily. The choice is dependent upon your desire to preserve fertility as most treatment options can affect your ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy.

Surgical options carry their own risks and may require a lengthy recovery time. A newer option is uterine fibroid embolization, which is effective for the majority of women who opt for it.

How does uterine fibroid embolization work?

Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) shrinks fibroids by blocking the blood supply that feeds them. It is a minimally invasive procedure that usually takes about an hour to perform. UFE is done by an interventional radiologist under sterile conditions. Patients are sedated during the procedure. The doctor inserts a thin tube or catheter into the artery at the top of the thigh and uses X-ray imaging to guide the catheter to the uterine artery.  Tiny particles are injected into the blood vessels that lead to the fibroids, blocking blood flow and causing the growths to shrink over time. The particles remain permanently at the site.

Women who choose UFE have a shorter hospital stay and fewer complications than those who have surgery and are able to return to daily life quicker – usually within seven to ten days. After UFE treatment, an overnight stay at Rush-Copley is necessary. Discomfort following the procedure is treated with pain medication. There is vaginal bleeding for a few days or weeks as the fibroids break down.

When is uterine fibroid embolization the best choice?

The ideal candidate for UFE:

  • Has symptomatic fibroids
  • Is not pregnant
  • Wants to keep her uterus
  • Does not want surgery or is not a good candidate for surgery
  • Has not reached menopause

What risks are involved?

UFE is proven to be a safe procedure for treating symptomatic fibroids with minimal risk. While complications are rare, they can include missed menstrual periods, short term allergic reaction or rash, vaginal discharge or infection, possible fibroid passage and post-embolization syndrome.  Women opting for UFE must be certain they are not pregnant. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.

What are the benefits of UFE compared to other treatments?

Choosing UFE eliminates the risks associated with surgery such as infection, bleeding or complications from general anesthesia. Compared to surgery, women who undergo UFE stay in the hospital just one day instead of two to three. They have less pain and fewer complications. And they are able to return to daily activities in about ten days, sooner than surgery patients who often need more than 30 days to recover.

Does insurance cover UFE?

Most insurance companies cover UFE as a treatment for symptomatic fibroids. Discuss your coverage with your insurance provider or physician before proceeding.

Why choose Rush-Copley?

Rush-Copley is committed to offering the highest quality health care services in the region. Our goal is to provide the most advanced medicine with extraordinary service. Keeping our Promise and meeting our vision and mission are why Rush-Copley staff and physicians work every day to improve the quality of service and care provided to our patients and community.

Rush-Copley was the first Fox Valley hospital to earn the esteemed Comprehensive Community Cancer Center designation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.