Uterine Fibroid Embolization

Fibroids are benign (not cancerous) growths of muscle tissue on or inside the uterus. A procedure called uterine fibroid embolization can be done to shrink a fibroid. It stops the fibroid’s blood supply. The procedure is often done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Closeup of fibroid in wall of uterus. Catheter is inserted in blood vessel on uterus and injecting material into smaller vessels near fibroid.

Before the procedure

To get ready for your procedure:

  • Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

  • Tell your health care provider if you are allergic to any foods, medicines, or X-ray dye (contrast medium).

  • Tell your provider about any medicines, supplements, or herbs you take. Ask whether you should stop taking them before the procedure.

During the procedure

  • You lie on an X-ray table. An IV line is put into a vein in your arm or hand. This line gives you fluids and medicines. You may be given medicine that relaxes you and makes you sleepy.

  • Medicine will be put on the skin on your groin to numb it. Then a small cut (incision) is made. A needle attached to a thin wire is put through the incision. The wire is put into a blood vessel near the groin.

  • A thin, flexible tube (catheter) is placed over the guide wire into the blood vessel.

  • Contrast medium is injected through the catheter. This helps the blood vessels and catheter show up better on X-rays. The movement of the catheter can then be seen on a video screen.

  • The radiologist uses X-ray images as a guide. He or she moves the catheter through the blood vessel. It is moved into the artery that supplies blood to the uterus.

  • The catheter is moved near the fibroid. The radiologist then injects tiny grains of plastic or spongy material into the artery. These grains flow to the smaller vessels that supply the fibroid and block blood flow to them. The procedure is repeated on the other side of the uterus.

  • The entire procedure takes about 1 to 2 hours.

After the procedure

You may stay in the hospital overnight. You will likely feel pain and cramping for up to a week. Medicines will be prescribed to help control this pain. Some vaginal spotting is common for a few days. You may feel tired and have nausea and a fever for a few days after the procedure. During your recovery, care for the incision as directed. You may be able to return to work 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure. Your health care provider will tell you more.

Possible risks and complications

  • Infection or bruising around the catheter insertion site

  • Blood clot in a blood vessel

  • Problems because of contrast medium. These include allergic reaction or kidney damage.

  • Infertility or premature menopause

  • Injury to the uterus that needs a hysterectomy or dilation and curettage

Doctors don't know how this procedure affects fertility in the long term.