What is fibroid embolization?
Fibroid embolization is performed by an interventional radiologist, a physician who is specially trained to perform this and other types of embolization and minimally invasive procedures.
The interventional radiologist makes a small nick in the skin (less than 1⁄4 of an inch) in the groin and inserts a catheter into an artery. The catheter is guided through the artery to the uterus while the interventional radiologist guides the progress of the procedure using a moving X-ray (fluoroscopy).
The interventional radiologist injects tiny plastic particles the size of grains of sand into the artery that is supplying blood to the fibroid tumor. This cuts off the blood flow and causes the tumor (or tumors) to shrink. The artery on the other side of the uterus is then treated.
Fibroid embolization usually requires a hospital stay of one night. Pain-killing medications and drugs that control swelling typically are prescribed following the procedure to treat cramping and pain. Fever sometimes occurs after embolization and is usually treated with acetaminophen.
Many women resume light activities in a few days and the majority of women are able to return to normal activities within one week.
While embolization to treat uterine fibroids has been performed since 1995, embolization of the uterus is not new. It has been used successfully by interventional radiologists for over 20 years to treat heavy bleeding after childbirth.
How successful is the fibroid embolization procedure?
Studies show that up to 90 percent of women,who have the procedure experience significant or total relief of heavy bleeding, pain and other symptoms. The procedure also is effective for multiple fibroids. Recurrence of treated fibroids is very rare. In one study in which patients were followed for six years, no fibroid that had been embolized regrew.
Reprinted with permission of the Society of Interventional Radiology (c) 2004, 2008; www.SIRweb.org . All rights reserved.