These are two names for the same procedures. UAE can apply to any procedure for uterine artery embolization, such as emergency post-partum or post-operative bleeding. UFE applies specifically to fibroid treatment, therefore, we use UFE throughout our site.
An interventional radiologist uses radiologic imaging to guide catheters throughout the body to treat conditions that previously required surgery. They are both certified by the American Board of Radiology and have earned an additional Certificate of Added Qualification (CAQ) in vascular and interventional radiology. Most IRs who perform UFE are CAQ certified.
Unless they have interventional training, it’s not likely. However, gynecologists are critical to evaluating pelvic masses, abnormal uterine bleeding, and managing surgical complications. UFE shouldn’t be performed without gynecologist support.
UFE treats fibroids throughout the uterus regardless of size, number, or location. Pedunculated fibroids could be the exception because they occur on a stalk and may project from the uterus’s outer layer. They do respond to UFE, but to avoid possible complications, many interventional radiologists feel there are better treatments, such as laparoscopic removal, including hysteroscopic resection.
Except for some cramping during the first 6-10 hours as your fibroids break down, UFE doesn’t cause any pain. The amount of cramping you’ll experience is difficult to predict, but many women describe it like moderate-severe menstrual cramps. The PCA pump helps you control the pain immediately after the procedure, and oral medications can provide relief when you’re discharged.
Spinal and epidural anesthesia can be used for post-UFE discomfort. But they aren’t necessary in most cases, and they introduce more risk and expense.
These polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) particles have been used for more than 20 years in embolization procedures without any adverse or allergic reactions. We have used Biosphere Medical Embosphere particles exclusively since April 2001 with excellent results.
The particles are too big to move through the uterine or fibroid capillaries, so as blood flow slows down, they are incorporated into the blood clot. They don’t dissolve, aren’t absorbed, and can’t migrate throughout your body.
Once the fibroid dies, the tissue softens and is reabsorbed by the body as it shrinks. It’s eventually replaced by scar tissue that isn’t sensitive to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. Typically, fibroids and the overall uterus shrink by 50%.
Based on worldwide UFE results, we know the uterus tolerates UFE very well. Some normal uterine tissue is embolized, but the uterus recruits blood supply from the cervix, vagina, and ovaries. Less than 1% of collateral circulation cases aren’t sufficient. In those instances, you could feel lingering pain, potentially resulting in a hysterectomy.
UFE treats every fibroid—regardless of size, number, or location—present at the time of the procedure. Dead fibroids don’t regrow. New fibroids have recurred in a few women who responded successfully to UFE.
Once a woman reaches menopause, fibroids usually don’t grow anymore. For women in their 40s, the time from procedure to menopause may be short. But younger women face a higher likelihood of new fibroid development.
If you live in or near Hampton Roads, Va., we’re happy to evaluate you and perform your UFE. If you’re traveling from out-of-state, you will receive concierge services. If you’re unable to travel, the Society of Interventional Radiologists can help you identify a provider in your area.