Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE)Uterine fibroids can be treated with a procedure called uterine artery embolization. Uterine artery embolization (UAE)—also sometimes called uterine fibroid embolization—is a minimally invasive treatment for uterine fibroids. Small particles called embolic agents are injected into the uterine arteries to cut off blood supply to the fibroids, causing them to shrink and die.
This procedure is a treatment option for uterine fibroids, which are non-cancerous growths in the uterus. These fibroids can cause severe symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and swelling of the abdomen. UAE shrinks fibroids and helps alleviate these symptoms.
Other reasons a person may undergo uterine artery embolization include:
- Low blood count (anemia) from uterine bleeding
- An enlarged uterus
- Bladder pressure that makes you feel like you need to urinate often
- Pressure on the bowels that causes constipation and bloating
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Back or leg pain, which may be caused by the fibroids pressing on nerves
UAE Procedure Details
The surgeon will make a small incision in the groin over the femoral artery, then insert a catheter into the artery and guide it to one of the two uterine arteries. He or she will inject contrast dye into the catheter to help find the artery to be blocked off. Then, the surgeon will inject embolic agents made of small plastic or gelatin particles through the catheter and into the blood vessels that supply blood to the fibroids. Without blood supply, the uterine fibroids will shrivel up and die. The fibroid tissue can then separate and pass through the vagina.
What to Expect
Uterine artery embolization is generally a safe procedure. The risk of complications from uterine artery embolization is low, but can include:
- Damage to other organs
- Problems with future pregnancies
Women who undergo uterine artery embolization for uterine fibroid symptoms typically find significant relief. This procedure can also affect a person’s menstrual period and have an impact on fertility.