Uterine artery embolization is a minimally invasive treatment for uterine fibroids, noncancerous growths in the uterus. In uterine artery embolization — also called uterine fibroid embolization — a doctor uses a slender, flexible tube (catheter) to inject small particles (embolic agents) into the uterine arteries, which supply blood to your fibroids and uterus. The goal is to block the fibroid blood vessels, starving the fibroids and causing them to shrink and die.

Symptoms

Uterine fibroids can cause severe symptoms in some women, including heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and swelling of the abdomen. Uterine artery embolization destroys fibroid tissue and eases these symptoms. And it provides an alternative to surgery to remove fibroids (myomectomy).

Diagnosis

Uterine fibroids are frequently found during a routine pelvic exam. Your doctor may feel irregularities in the shape of your uterus, suggesting the presence of fibroids. If you have symptoms of uterine fibroids, you doctor may order these tests:

  • Ultrasound: If confirmation is needed, your doctor may order an ultrasound. It uses sound waves to get a picture of your uterus to confirm the diagnosis and to map and measure fibroids. A doctor or technician moves the ultrasound device over your abdomen or places it inside your vagina to get images of your uterus.
  • Lab tests: If you have abnormal menstrual bleeding, your doctor may order other tests to investigate potential causes. These might include a complete blood count to determine if you have anemia because of chronic blood loss and other blood tests to rule out bleeding disorders or thyroid problems.

Treatments

You might choose uterine artery embolization if you're premenopausal and:

  • You have severe pain or heavy bleeding from uterine fibroids
  • You want to avoid surgery, or surgery is too risky for you
  • You want to keep your uterus
  • Optimizing a future pregnancy isn't your chief concern

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