Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) is a new way of treating fibroid tumors of the uterus. Fibroid tumors, also known as myomas, are masses of fibrous and muscle tissue in the uterine wall which are benign, but which may cause heavy menstrual bleeding, pain in the pelvic region, or pressure on the bladder or bowel. With angiographic methods similar to those used in heart catheterization, a catheter is placed in each of the two uterine arteries and small particles are injected to block the arterial branches that supply blood to the fibroids. The fibroid tissue dies, the masses shrink, and in most cases symptoms are relieved. Uterine fibroid embolization, done under local anaesthesia, is much less invasive than open surgery done to remove uterine fibroids. The procedure is performed by an experienced interventional radiologist, a physician specially trained to perform uterine fibroid embolization and similar procedures.
Uterine fibroid embolization was first used to limit blood loss during surgical removal of fibroid tumors. It was found that after embolization and while awaiting surgery, many patients no longer had symptoms, and frequently the operation itself proved not to be necessary. Today uterine fibroid embolization is used as a stand-alone treatment for women who have symptom-producing uterine fibroids.